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I am Andrew Greene, 23, founder and director of the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra, based in Annapolis, MD:
PRSO was founded originally as the Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra in February of 2010, while I was an 18 year old Freshman at the University of Maryland (updating our name this past year). We play ragtime, theatre, and dance music off the original period orchestra scores, and underscore silent movies with live music and sound effects.
PRSO has been called "the premier American ragtime ensemble" by the Washington Post, and "one of the best ragtime orchestra's you'll hear" by Hot Jazz Saturday Night, WAMU 88.5 Washington DC. We've been invited to play at venues ranging from the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, to historic theatres and performing arts centers up and down the East Coast.
PRSO and I are in the final stages of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for our second CD: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/peacherineragtime/peacherine-orchestra-cd-the-music-of-mel-b-kaufman
With Peacherine I've collected over 7,000 historic musical scores, I've been invited to guest conduct the South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra at age 22, worked for the Smithsonian Institution as a Jazz Music Researcher, and have given lectures on ragtime music and composers across the United States. AMA!
EDIT: Obligatory Front Page Mention! You guys ROCK! If you want more info on the orchestra or what I'm up to, Like PRSO on Facebook
EDIT #2: Thanks so much for a great time everyone! I had a blast taking everyone's questions! I hope you'll check out my orchestra's website,
Are you also the only professional ragtime orchestra leader in the United states?
No, there are a few others, but I can only count them on one hand. I am the youngest though, at 23 years old. The others are all 40+ years old.
Thanks for keeping it alive. It's an interesting career choice for sure, but you're preserving a bit of culture that's nearing forgotten. That's something to be proud of.
Do you guys travel?
Yes, we do! We travel regularly for our performances. So far we've hit theatres/performance venues from North Carolina to Pennsylvania (with every state except Delaware in between hit). Next year we'll be in NY State, I hope to get the group to Connecticut and Ohio as well.
If you know of any venues that might be interested in us, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We're always looking for more places to go and share America's musical heritage!
Is it true that everybody likes the Michigan Rag?
Everybody loves the Michigan Rag!
How did you first experience ragtime?
I was first exposed to it as a 12 year old during a piano lesson. I was playing the classics, Bach, Beethoven, etc., and as a "break" by my piano teacher, she gave me a copy of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag from 1899.
When I was 16 (2007) I heard a ragtime orchestra for the first time, the Manhattan Ragtime Orchestra (now defunct), and loved it. I found some original arrangements, put together a group (while in high school) and started playing it. I formed PRSO when I reached college.
What kind of music is on your ipod right now?
Right now my iPod is an eclectic mix of old 78s, ragtime-era cylinder recordings, modern ragtime recordings (by pianists and orchestras), some classic rock, and lots of jazz.
Did you ever get so angry and broke your baton?
I haven't yet!
Are there any challenges in running an orchestra that focuses solely on ragtime?
There's a lot of challenges. The biggie is gigs though. It's incredibly difficult to get gigs for the group. Many people have this notion that ragtime music is some old guy playing on a rickety piano in a smoky corner of a saloon. And my ensemble doesn't work too well for playing at a bar or club, so we have to focus on bigger venues or concert associations. And many of them are not willing to hire a ragtime group, especially in this economy. They believe it's too risky to hire us (which truly isn't the case).
The second biggest is simply hiring musicians. I have a wonderful team of regulars I pull from, but if I need to substitute someone out, it can be difficult to find one who's willing to play. Again, it's the idea that ragtime isn't this professional musical form, so some musicians scoff at the idea. Those who play it learn how fun it is, and they're willing to play it again.
You seriously need to contact the Montreal Jazz Festival organizers. I have no idea on how they arrange for US acts, but there are always new and exciting groups at the festival. They absolutely could use a group like yours! You guys sound great!
Have you ever composed something for your orchestra to play?
I occasionally do, but it's usually "filler" music for silent movies. PRSO and I have a LOT of mood music for films, so most of the time we're covered. Here's one from PRSO's collection as example. http://i.imgur.com/PP7ukgj.jpg
Having said that, I used to compose a lot, and I do have a few things the group will eventually play!
Who would you like to work with?
Edit: /have you worked with someone you want to tell us about?
I'd love to work with more symphony orchestras. My twelve piece group is my baby, but it's a completely different (and fun) experience to work with larger ensembles.
When I guest conducted the South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra last year, I had a blast. Here's a photo from that event: http://i.imgur.com/CxsVS8Q.jpg
There is a notion that in order to truly master something a person needs at least 10000 hours of practice.What do you think about it?
At what age did you start learning music? How many hours a day did you practice? What was you parents' role in your success?
That statement is 100% correct. Practice makes perfect, and you need to continually practice in order to stay at the top of your game. Especially with music: If you play the piano, you need to practice the piano in order to get better at playing, and it will open up more opportunities for you down the road.
I come from a musical family, my dad played the clarinet, and my mother plays the piano and sings. I started learning piano by age 5, practicing around two hours a day. I've since gone on to learn cello, clarinet, string bass, percussion instruments (drumset, xylophone, marimba, etc.) and I also sing. My parents have been incredibly supportive, helping me every step of the way!
Being a high school clarinetist, I love hearing ragtime music among many other styles that incorporates the clarinet. That being said, I have two questions:
If you were to choose another genre of music to explore and possibly direct, what would you choose?
What's your honest opinion of the direction that modern music is going today?
If I had another genre, I'd choose 30s-40s jazz. It's an era of music I've also loved, and the instrumentation/experience is completely different than ragtime.
I think most modern music is terrible compared to what it was. Much of the music I hear today is nothing but sex, drug references, and violence. It's disheartening to say the least.
That said, I LOVE hearing Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox and how he takes modern music and changes the style and feel of each piece!
What is ragtime?
Ragtime is the combination of the European March form (think something by John Philip Sousa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7QpgSEFLD0) with African-American rhythms. It's this juxtaposition of standard form with syncopation, which results in a truly American musical style.
What is going on here? Are you providing the music for a silent film?
See if the Cincinnati Pops might be interested in working with you. That'd be great!
I'd love to work with the Cincinnati Pops. Anyone have an in with them?
Obligatory: Sondheim did not write Ragtime. The music was a collaboration between Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.
(Not to be a dick, just figured I'd make sure correct info got out :) )
Dang it you're right! I knew it was a Stephen, just forgot which one!
What is your favorite instrument besides the piano to play, and why is it double bass?
Because the double bass is a manly instrument, and is built to be awesome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vlf9P7mroRA
Do you only play ragtime and what instruments are in your ensemble? I play violin in the San Fernando Valley Orchestra im the youngest in the group too :)
PRSO only plays ragtime music and music of the era 1880-1929 (since that's our focus!) I myself play anything, classical, a few modern pieces, some jazz.
The orchestra is a recreation of what was known as "11-and-piano", and has five strings (2 violins, 1 viola, cello, bass), a flute doubling on piccolo, a clarinet, two cornets (not trumpets), trombone, percussion, and yours truly going back and forth between conducting and playing piano.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival too
I'm not from US, but I hope to get to this festival one year as it seems awesome.
I recently discovered a band called Tuba Skinny on Youtube who do some ragtime too. I think a more formal arrangement with a conductor would go down very well
Didn't know about this one. Will look into it.
> I think most modern music is terrible compared to what it was. Much of the music I hear today is nothing but sex, drug references, and violence. It's disheartening to say the least
Are you sure you're not really old?
I'm seriously envious that you have such a sweet gig!
So two questions:
A. Favorite ragtime piece/composer?
B. Are you ever in need of ragtime singers? :D
Hope to catch your act one of these days!
A) My favorite ragtime piece is "More Candy" from 1917 by Mel B. Kaufman (1879-1932). It's high paced, lots of energy, and lots of fun!
B) Yes, we're always searching for new talent to work with the group. Shoot PRSO an email at email@example.com with samples!
We'll be performing in Annapolis, MD this November at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, June 2015 we'll be in upstate NY, and we're working on gigs for Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and more for 2015!
How important is it that you get two cornets as opposed to trumpets? When I played in middle/highschool band, our horn section had a mixture of both, and to me their physical differences were apparent (yet subtle), but the difference in sound was nonexistent. Could a layperson tell the difference in sound as part of a ragtime ensemble? Could you?
Also, I gotta say, as a US history major who has an interest in 1870s-1960s musical history... You're awesome for keeping this part of our history alive. Any favorite origin stories about a particular piece or musician/composer you'd like to share?
Cornets are VERY important, virtually all of the arrangements from that time that I've come across call for cornets as opposed to trumpets. Soundwise I do believe they have a deeper, more mellow sound, which fits the music incredibly well. PRSO and I own two cornets, both are C.G. Conn New Wonder "Victor" cornets from 1919. They also have a quick change mechanism on them to change the tuning from Bb to A, which is very helpful when half your music is tuned for "A" instruments!
My favorite origin story is that of Mel B. Kaufman. He was a composer by night, a traveling ladies underwear salesman by day. His tunes are fantastic, and has been oft overlooked, so my orchestra and I are planning to record an album of his music! You've most likely heard his music in many Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons of the 1930s-1950s. Along with the CD, I'll be writing a full biography on Kaufman, his life, music, sharing rare photographs, sheet music covers, etc. Check out our Kickstarter link for more info, and support if you can! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/peacherineragtime/peacherine-orchestra-cd-the-music-of-mel-b-kaufman
How many different people have taught you?
I've had a number of great teachers who have helped me along the way. My piano teacher (who I stuck with for twelve years) has been a big inspiration and helped me grow. She was the one who introduced me to ragtime.
Professionally, Robert Israel, Frederick Hodges, and other ragtime and silent film accompaniment performers have been great teachers to me.
What is your dream in life? Do you see yourself reaching there?
My biggest dream is to make my research and work with music full-time. I loved being able to work at the Smithsonian Institution and research the music I love; they were flexible with my performances with Peacherine, so when I go back to Grad School I hope to work for them and doing Peacherine events as I get them!
It will be a couple of years, but I'm confident I'll get there!
How did the name of your orchestra come about? Is it a combination of peach and nectarine? : )
It is the name of a Scott Joplin rag from 1901, called "The Peacherine Rag". http://www.perfessorbill.com/covers/peacheri.jpg
I have no idea what I'm talking about and there is probably a big difference between the music you make. But if you could be part of the Orchestra for a Broadway/West End show what would you choose?
A little late now, but I've always been a fan of the Monty Python guys, so I would have loved to have either conducted or been a part of the band for Spamalot.
Who is your favorite composer and who is your idol?
My favorite composer is Mel B. Kaufman, the "King of the One Step". I found out about him from another ragtime orchestra leader who had been playing his works. I've since collected many of Kaufman's compositions, 78s, and have had the pleasure of working with the composer's descendants. PRSO's next CD Project (the one we're working with Kickstarter with) will be dedicated to his works. They're a lot of fun! You've probably heard his works accompanying Looney Tunes cartoons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVXLubZdSIE and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0gHciHNRX4
My idol is my grandfather. He's been the biggest supporter in my life of all my activities, and I look up to him for inspiration and guidance.
EDIT: Found another example of Kaufman's music in cartoons. Here's from the 1940 cartoon "The Sour Puss" with Porky Pig, you'll hear Kaufman's hit ME-OW about 2:14 in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWqn1Y885V0
What is the most rewarding part about being a director of an orchestra?
Simply the joy it brings when people come up to you and say how much they've enjoyed the experience. I try to put on a good show with my orchestra when we perform live. For some people, it may be the first time they've ever seen a silent movie with live, authentic accompaniment, or heard ragtime music played off of the original arrangements. It's a true revelation for them.
Ragtime music is my passion, and if I can make that passion show, and leave the audience enjoying the music and the whole experience, then it's a job well done!
Have you seen the Broadway musical Ragtime?
I have not seen the whole thing, but I do enjoy the music that Stephen Sondheim wrote for it!
Thanks for doing this AMA. My question is, what's your musical background?
17 years playing piano, 12 playing the string bass, I've been singing all my life. I got into ragtime at age 12, formed my first ragtime orchestra at age 16 while in high school. Formed Peacherine in 2010 while in college.
What's your favorite Joplin rag? Mine is Solace.
Are there any other rags you'd recommend I listen to by other composers that are similar toSolace?
Do you ever play Chaplin's music with your group?
Which silent films do you normally accompany?
My favorite Joplin rag would either be Gladiolus or Maple Leaf. Both are excellent compositions. Magnetic Rag is also wonderful! If you're looking for similar composers, definitely check out Joseph Lamb, Louis Chauvin, and J.S. Zamecnik.
We REGULARLY underscore the films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and to a lesser extent, Harold Lloyd. We're expanding now to include the works of Laurel & Hardy, Lon Chaney, Douglas Fairbanks, Monty Banks, Gloria Swanson, and others in our shows. Our favorites are Chaplin's THE RINK (1916), ONE A.M. (1916), and Buster Keaton's COPS (1922) and THE GENERAL (1927).
Here's a clip from our score for THE GENERAL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLnD7-4-l3c
As a music student I love projects like this! It's almost bartokian of you to have such a solid base of knowledge on a great AMERICAN style! What do you feel is the rags place in a modern art music scene? More preservation or is there still a push to create new works for the genre? Thank you for doing this AMA
Ragtime needs to be performed more. Simple as that. It's too important a musical style and too enjoyable to NOT be played more! Much more needs to be done to preserve and catalog ragtime's place in American history. In some cases that may mean saving music collections from certain oblivion (which I've done), or that may be rummaging through your grandmother or great grandmother's piano bench and keeping the music safe.
There's still a lot of people writing in the ragtime style, many of which I'm proud to call friends. Check out Max Keenlyside, who's written a number of works: http://www.maxkeenlyside.ca/
How did you come up with the idea to start a ragtime orchestra? I was a music major in college and never heard of the ensemble until I was a senior.
I heard my first ragtime orchestra at age 15, when one came to my hometown and performed. I was instantly hooked, and was determined to start my own. By my junior year in high school I had the group formed, with the encouragement of my family and another ragtime orchestra leader. That was essentially the "trial period" to figure out what I was doing, what could be done, etc.
Once I hit college I found some interested people for it, and began rehearsals. It's grown a heck of a lot since then!
That's cool! What's your hometown? I'm from Houston and have never heard of one coming through here.
Our hometown/base is Annapolis, MD. We've traveled from North Carolina to (next year) Upstate New York, hitting every state except Delaware in between. PRSO and I would love to come to Houston, know of any venues that might work?
Andrew, I live in Sedalia MO and we have always been told here is the birth of ragtime, Scott Joplin, the mapleleaf rag, ect. Ive been told Sedalia used to be a cattle town where cattle men would drive the cattle through town and stop at many of our local whore houses(yeah sedalia used to be a whore town just like arlen :3)
Its pretty important to us here we even have a thing called the rag time festival!
So what all can you tell me about the history of Ragtime relating to my hometown?
Sedalia is a biggie in the role of a home of ragtime music. Of course because of Scott Joplin, the Maple Leaf Club, John Stark (the publisher of Joplin's early works) etc. Without Sedalia, we would not have the Maple Leaf Rag, it may have been called something completely different! Who knows what would have happened without Joplin in Sedalia...
BTW, PRSO and I have been trying for years to get to Sedalia for the ragtime festival, tell the festival managers that we should be there!
Hi and thank you for taking your time to do this AMA!
I'm a 20 year old who wants to start a new band in my area. Could you please share some experiences or hurdles you had to jump to get this group formed and performing?
Stay determined when you form your group, and play the music that you want to play. It took me 7 months to round up the people necessary to start rehearsals, and always try to think up clever ways to sell your group or idea. With us, it was young people playing old music, and that's helped considerably.
Come to Delaware! I'm sure the University of Delaware would love ya!
We've been trying to get to Delaware, but nobody's hired us yet! Would love to come to UDel! Got a contact point at the performing arts center there?
I'm involved in the local rock, folk, and punk scene here so I can't personally help you. However I know a few people who work in the sorts of organizations that could book you guys. I'll definitely put the word out.
Thanks, shoot me a PM and I can send some orchestra booking materials your way to pass on!
I actually helped put the festival together last year! Let me check into this for you!
Do you have any idols in music in general?
EDIT- soy have any idols? Go away, autocorrect
Idols in music... the biggies would be Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, and Scott Joplin. I'm always impressed with how Joplin tried his whole life to elevate ragtime to the level of classical music, and to not make it seem just as a "black music", but as music that is worthy of attention and critical review.
What are your thoughts on the overall state of jazz? Do you think that its dying or that it might make a come back? Is there anyone who you think is still managing to do some cool things?
I don't think Jazz ever died. I think it's simply changed its form over time, and is always constantly evolving. There's a lot of people out there doing cool things with it!
How many times have you seen Alexander's Ragtime Band, honestly? lol
come on and hear, come on and hear...
We've heard it so many times...
Do you guys travel much? My university may be interested in you visiting. Send me a PM if you want contact info!
We do! And we're always looking to go to new places to perform. I can also give lectures pre-concert about ragtime, silent film accompaniment, etc. etc. PM is on the way!
Do you like scott bradlee and post modern jukebox?
Love what he's doing. Maybe down the road both of us could work on a project together!
You looking to hire any woodwind players?
Depending on where you live we're always looking for people to join the group. Send playing samples and a resume to us through peacherine's website!
Where in upstate NY?
Jamestown, NY, at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. June 27th, although tickets have not gone on sale yet. We'll be underscoring Charlie Chaplin's 1921 comedy/feature THE KID, using the not-widely-seen full 68 minute version of the film, and another film short TBD. We're trying to see if we can find another venue to perform at while up there!
EDIT: It's roughly an hour or so south of Buffalo.
I hope you can make it out to central California sometime soon. I imagine this doesn't get said often, but I seriously love ragtime!
I was out last year at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento, giving a talk on Mel B. Kaufman (the composer who's music PRSO and I will be recording, assuming our Kickstarter goes well, see here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/peacherineragtime/peacherine-orchestra-cd-the-music-of-mel-b-kaufman). I'd love to return, I don't think I'll be getting there this year though!
what is your opinion about videogame music orchestras?
I love them. They're fantastic. We had one at the University of Maryland which was great.
and did you ever made a concert in canada? it is a nice country for me especially in summer
We have not performed in Canada yet, but we'd sure like to!
How about internationally speaking?
Internationally speaking I can't really say. I'm unaware of many professional ragtime ensembles across the globe, I'm sure there are some out there though!
Hey andrew, i am a beginner when it comes to piano in all areas, but... ragtime tickles my booty in just the right way. Its what my main focus is with piano. How did you feel about stride piano? How did you get in front of a piano for the first time?
Stride piano is great, along with novelty piano. I have many friends in the ragtime world who are excellent ragtime pianists who love to play stride. I was drawn to the piano at a young age since my mother played it, so with her support I was confident when playing for audiences!
What is your favorite meal?
Meal? Probably prime rib!
What's youre favorite ragtime piece and where's your favorite place to perform?
Answered above. Favorite place to perform: The Levoy Theatre in Millville, NJ. We've played there twice and would love to come back. That or the Kennedy Center!
Could you give us a good ragtime Spotify (or YouTube or something similar) ragtime playlist to get us started? I find it really hard to find good stuff.
Here's one for you: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhGokOKf5Vjr_LuGRkVjhoVOdB9sM5BUK
When you're searching for other ragtime artists, search for Frederick Hodges, Adam Swanson, Bryan Wright, Max Keenlyside, and Richard Dowling. All of them are fantastic performers!
Glad you are keeping history alive. I would like to know what is next in your future. Have you thought of a way to turn this into something to inspire you to take on more modern music and hit the charts?
The plan for PRSO: Keep doing what we're doing, find new ways to expand! For me personally: Grad School, and make it my life's work to research and present this music for generations to come.
I'm not entirely sure how to modernize the group - the charm is in the nature of bringing this old music back to life. I don't want to become another Scott Bradlee - he's already doing such great work turning modern hits into older-style favorites!
Hey man. No real question, just going to say that Ragtime is great music, and although I'm a piano guy, it's awesome when it's played by an orchestra. Ragtime has been so influential throughout the years.
Also the Peacherine is a dope piece. It's almost muscle memory at this point, in my hands.
Okay, now that I"m rambling, how do you decide on flourishes, embellishments during a repeat? Is that written in? Can a soloist take control?
A soloist can certainly take control when playing piano. Flourishes and other things can be decided on the whim, or can be figured out during practice! Sometimes it is written in though. For orchestrations, most embellishments are written in, unless a musician decides to add something themselves.
On perhaps a lighter note... what's the current play count of how many times you've listened to More Candy? I still occasionally wake up with it in my head... what have you done to me. Congrats on the front page!
Ah, hello Clockmaker! Looking at about 4000 plays of that track right now! So glad to have had a ... positive? influence on you!
Martin Spitznagel is a personal favorite of mine.
Martin's a great guy, fantastic piano player.
Did you major in music at UMD? They have such a top notch music program.
Nope, the music department there did not take me. All of this has been on my own.