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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Ragtime jazz festival celebrates 18 years of tradition

Gabriella Sutherland
T.J. Muller performing on the McComas Hall Theater stage during the Ragtime Jazz Festival.

Mississippi State University’s Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival was held Thursday through Saturday in the Mitchell Memorial Library and in McComas Hall. The festival, which aims to preserve and celebrate the history of ragtime music, has been a tradition for 18 years, with the Gatsby Gala taking place alongside it for 10 of those years.

According to Stephen Cunetto, event coordinator and Associate Dean for Community Relations and Strategic Initiatives, the festival is well archived through film, CDs and a yearly PBS show.

Sitting down in the Mitchell Memorial Library, Chip Templeton smiled with prideful, glimmering eyes as he spoke of the Templeton Ragtime Music Museum and the vocation of his father to collect what he called “the business of music.” When asked why ragtime meant so much, Templeton responded without hesitation.

“It’s such a niche little thing, but it’s that little secret sauce that makes the soup taste good. Because everything came from it,” Templeton said.

The music grabbed the attention of attendees both young and old as activities were held throughout the weekend. Chats with musicians, mini concerts, historical lectures and evening concerts assured the Starkville community there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Headlining the festival was the vivacious Sweet and Hot Quartet featuring Anne Barnhart playing flute and vocals, T.J. Muller on string, Josh Duffee as percussionist and “Joyful Jeff” Barnhart as piano and vocals. Accompanying them in the festival were Gwyen Elizabeth Franklin, Dave Majchrzak and Louis Ford. The night of their Saturday performance, these musicians played to a broad crowd. Audience members were even given the opportunity to participate in the performance, as Louis Ford led everyone in the crowd though a sing along to “You Are My Sunshine.” The song, as Ford explained, is an ode to a horse.

Louis Ford plays both clarinet and saxophone in performances. Gabriella Sutherland 

Louis Ford grinned from ear to ear, chuckling as he talked about the history of the song and how former governor Jimmie H. Davis of Louisiana wrote the ode to his one true love – Sunshine, his horse – even going so far as to build a bridge in her honor.

The group of people that put this festival together did so with passion and joy as they shared their love of ragtime, the mother of all American music, with the world.

The performers are comfortable in their stage presence celebrating jazz. They play their instruments as an extension of themselves and the quick dialogue that happens on stage makes everything all the more casual. These people are not just performing music and art, they are entertainers and storytellers.

“It may never dominate the music scene again, but it will never die,” Templeton said.

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