Oxford hosts 43rd annual Old Time Piano Playing Contest

OXFORD, MS (WMC) - Music pre-dating 1939 is coming alive this weekend in Oxford for the 43rd annual World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest.

Piano players from across the country are competing for the title of the Best Old-Time Piano Player.

"Ragtime is the first truly original American music," said pianist Adam Swanson, who is the competition's only four-time champion. "All I can say is that I love the music."

Pianists as young as 8 years old and as old as 79 perform for a small prize.

To win, pianists must show a wide range in music, but it's about much more than the music.

"You can't just play the piano, you have to be an entertainer," Swanson said. "Because ragtime was popular music, you have to smile at the audience, you have to converse with them and you have to entertain them, and you get points for that."

The contest almost never made it to year 43. Two years ago, it almost shut down.

"We were going to end it after 41 years just because we were out of steam," said contest founder Ted Lemen.

But the Ole Miss music program offered to take it in and this is now the second year the contest is being held on campus.

"It's been great!" Lemen said.

The toe-tapping music is living on, and music fans of all ages are encouraged to come out and enjoy some music of a golden era played by some of the best musicians in the world.

"These are tunes that you'll whistle or hum for two weeks after the contest is over," Lemen said.

The event goes on each night from Thursday through Sunday. For more information about the contest, visit their official website.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.