Brian Dykstra Hopes ‘Ragtime Classics’ Will Inspire a New Generation
New CD features many of the genre’s cheeriest, most toe-tapping tunes
WOOSTER, Ohio — Alex and Max Collier, 21-month-old twins from Burlington, Vermont, often bop around their home to the tunes of ragtime legends Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb, and James Scott, among others.
What would prompt these energetic 2-year-olds — also known as the “X-Boys” (because their names end with that letter) — to respond so enthusiastically to this century-old genre of music for the piano? The answer is their grandfather, Brian Dykstra, the Neille O. and Gertrude M. Rowe Professor of Music Emeritus at The College of Wooster and a long-time aficionado of ragtime music.
Classically trained at The Juilliard School of Music in New York City before earning his master’s and doctoral degrees in piano at The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., Dykstra joined the music faculty at Wooster in 1969. Three years later he discovered ragtime music and never looked back.
Despite its prior reputation among many classical music lovers as saloon music ill-suited to the concert hall, Dykstra and many of his colleagues in the world of classical music have, during the past four decades, found considerable merit in the genre. Since his ragtime epiphany, Dykstra has publicly performed dozens of ragtime classics and has composed 61 rags for piano solo and for small chamber ensembles. Among other features of this music, he enjoys the cheery, tuneful, toe-tapping qualities that have endeared it to so many people worldwide.
Now Dykstra hopes to share his rag expertise with countless others through the release of his latest CD, “Ragtime Classics, 1901-1919,” a collection of 18 rags on the Centaur label. They include Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” today’s most universally recognized classic rag. Also featured are works by such composers as Scott Hayden, Tom Turpin, Clarence Woods, Charles Johnson, Charles Cooke, and May Aufderheide.
Dykstra still considers himself primarily a classical pianist. During his career at Wooster he has performed hundreds of piano pieces by dozens of classical composers, from Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven to the moderns Bartok, John Cage, and Gyorgy Ligeti. But because of his considerable attention to ragtime he decided to focus on it in his most recent recording projects.
The recordings were done over several years at Audio Recording Studio in Bentleyville, Ohio where, coincidentally, the owner and chief engineer is Bruce Gigax, who was born and raised in Wooster and also serves as audio supervisor for The Cleveland Orchestra.
Dykstra’s ragtime acumen is readily discernible in his exquisite renditions of the 18 classic rags, which are vibrant, natural, genuine, and rhythmic. It is not his first foray into recording ragtime. In 2012 he released “Neo-Ragtime,” a highly acclaimed collection of 29 of his original compositions for piano solo and chamber ensembles, described as “great ragtime by a modern composer who is also an excellent piano advocate of his wares” by Fanfare magazine.
The new CD is available at the Florence O. Wilson Bookstore in Lowry Center (1189 Beall Ave.) and online at Amazon — a perfect stocking stuffer for the holidays, even for two-year-olds.