Brian Dykstra’s New Ragtime Compositions Revive Old Genre
Emeritus Professor of Music at The College of Wooster releases ‘Neo-Ragtime’ CD
WOOSTER, Ohio — Ragtime reached its peak in popularity almost a century ago, but composer/performer Brian Dykstra has kept this unique musical genre vibrant and visible for the past 40 years with 60 original works. His latest venture, “Neo-Ragtime,” is a collection of new “rags” on a double-CD set released by Centaur.
Dykstra, Emeritus Professor of Music at The College of Wooster, has divided his works on the new release into two categories. The first is concert rags for small ensembles, and the second is rags and other pieces for piano solo. Dykstra composed each of the works and served as the pianist on nearly all them.
“’Neo-Ragtime’ is the culmination of the ragtime strand of my career at The College of Wooster,” says Dykstra. “My ‘neo-ragtime’ style draws essential characteristics from the classic ragtime style of the 1897-1917 period, including the typically joyful spirit; several distinct 16-measure sections, each repeated; in most cases a 2/4 time signature; and the oom-pah pattern in the left hand with a syncopated melody in the right.”
The models that have most inspired Dykstra are the classic rags of Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb, and James Scott — the three greatest masters of classic ragtime. Dykstra singles out his more varied left-handed patterns, greater dissonance, and greater emotional range as the factors that distinguish his neo-rags from the rags of a century ago.
The two discs in “Neo-Ragtime,” contain 29 original compositions by Dykstra, 23 of which are in his neo-ragtime style. Twelve of the pieces are for small ensembles including flute and piano; clarinet and piano; bassoon and piano; alto flute, alto saxophone, and piano; piccolo and piano; and violin, alto saxophone and piano.
Dykstra is the pianist in 27 of the 29 pieces. His distinguished co-performers include flutist Katherine DeJongh, chair of orchestral winds of the Preparatory Department of the Cleveland Institute of Music; alto saxophonist Greg Banaszak, who teaches at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute of Music; alto saxophonist James Umble, who performs regularly with the Warners in the ensemble known as The Cleveland Duo & James Umble; piccoloist Kyra Kester, who teaches at Hiram College and in the Preparatory Department of the Cleveland Institute of Music; and four members of The Cleveland Orchestra — clarinetist Robert Woolfrey, bassoonist Barrick Stees, violinist Stephen Warner, and pianist Carolyn Gadiel Warner.
Dykstra taught full-time in The College of Wooster’s Department of Music for 37 years (1969-2007) and chaired the department for 14 of those years. Since 2007 he has taught piano part-time at the College.
The “Neo-Ragtime” disc is available at The College of Wooster’s Florence O. Wilson Bookstore in Lowry Center (1189 Beall Ave.) and through the label’s website, centaurrecords.com. It will also be available at the Severance Hall Gift Shop in Cleveland.