The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra Traces the Roots of America's Musical Heritage for Black History Month with Performances in Schools

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The KSO's Newport Ragtime Band offers free concerts for schools featuring music by mostly black American composers of ragtime, blues, Dixieland, and early jazz from 1898 to 1932. "Rags to Riches" incorporates powerpoint and Q&A into an entertaining and educational fifty minute program exploring national and local music history.

KSO's Newport Ragtime Band

"The KSO's Rag's to Riches performances are historically accurate and interesting. We loved this show." — St. Joseph Academy, Walton, KY

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra’s Newport Ragtime Band was formed in 1998 to explore the roots of America’s popular music heritage. From the advent of ragtime, just before the turn of the 20th century, through Blues, Dixieland and the early development of jazz through the late 1920s, composers and musicians (most of whom were black), created a unique American sound and musical language that can be traced to recent pop music. In Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis, New York and even Cincinnati, music by black performers made indelible impressions on society, and gave the U.S. a new product to export. Popular music, as it was known, changed forever. The KSO is proud to authentically re-create music from this era for Black History Month.

    The performance opens with the traditional New Orleans funeral procession.

With powerpoint slides featuring historical images along with brief introductions, each tune and composer is highlighted for their contribution to the musical genre. Local actor, Deondra Means joins the 9-piece band to sing a couple of fun and engaging songs. At the end of each 45 minute program, the performers take questions from the audience.

    Free KSO education performances have reached 117,423 students, from 201 schools over the past 19 seasons. Attendance is open to all Tri-state schools: public, private, parochial and home-schoolers. Though both Tuesday’s performances are fully booked, seating remains available for for the 11 am concert at Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills. There is no cost to students or schools to attend. Thanks to the support of generous donors and foundations, the KSO supplements music education offerings throughout the Tri-state with programming that remains unique and relevant for required studies of arts & humanities.

"With the high percentage of students on free and reduced lunches, and school field trip requiring buses, the KSO is taking its show to Holmes Middle and High Schools this year," said KSO Music Director James Cassidy, On Wednesday area public and Diocesan will visit Notre Dame Academy to hear the group.

The Newport Ragtime Band features some of the area’s finest musicians and performs a variety of familiar and interesting tunes that predate the swing era, which began in the 1930s and carried on into the 40s. Jazz went through experimental phases in the 50s and 60s, as R&B and country melded to create Rock and Roll. Jazz influences returned in the late 60s through the 70s with a fusion of jazz, rock and soul, made fashionable
by the numerous horn bands of the time. Technology, production costs and tastes (often generated by record labels) changed pop music in the late 80s, and the trained musicians and the jazz / blues heritage of yesteryear gave way to punk, metal, grunge, rap and hip hop. Today the generational roots of jazz are harder to find or discern within popular music. Jazz represents America’s most significant contribution to western music. The KSO keeps these early sounds and history alive through historical research and authentic live performance.

The KSO’s free Education Outreach Series is sponsored in part by the Charles H. Dater Foundation. Rags to Riches is supported by the William P. Anderson Foundation.

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James R. Cassidy
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