The Art of Ragtime

The Art of Ragtime with Nico Rhodes


Few Canadians know anything about Ragtime beyond Scott Joplin’s soundtrack to the movie ‘The Sting’. Composer and pianist, Nico Rhodes takes us on an intriguing musical journey through the evolution of Ragtime from classical to contemporary, featuring the rags of its best-known proponents and little-known stars.

Who knew Debussy and Stravinsky composed pieces based in ragtime? In their time, a formal classical music so rhythmically punctuated was highly unusual. The Italian word in classical music is ‘alla zoppa’ meaning ‘limping’ but the English translation ‘driving notes’ captures it better.

Ragtime was an ethno-syncretic intersection of African and European culture that shaped the musical landscape of popular music in North America for the following century. Taking its inspiration and unique character from the melodic and rhythmic vivacity of Afro-American folksongs and dances, it was birthed in honkytonks and brothels, the only places Black musicians were allowed to play. Ragtime’s influence can be heard in contemporary rock, blues, jazz, and classical genres, despite an evolution hindered by prejudice against both the form and its performers.

In 1916, Opera Magazine wrote: “Ragtime has carried the complexity of the rhythmic subdivision to a point never before reached in the history of music.” One hundred and one years after Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag was copywritten, Nico brings the music he originated back into the limelight.


Why Nico Loves Ragtime

Born in Vancouver and raised on Vancouver Island, he was brought-up on the road with his mother and father (lighting designer for her concerts). Throughout those formative years, Nico was not only doing his math homework in a cornucopia of Canadian theatre greenrooms, or selling his mom’s recordings at intermission, but he was also being immersed into a world of music and theatre…literally by osmosis.
His mother’s band included world-class musicians such as J. Douglas Dodd, Charlie Knowles, Tom Neville, and Jack Stafford. The sound man, Phil Posner, introduced Nico to the world of Beethoven, Charlie Chaplin, Scott Joplin, and the Beatles. His father, Dusty Rhodes, showed him the ropes (literally) of hanging lights and the stage craft design wisdom which he called ‘suspension of disbelief ‘. The audiences taught Nico appreciation and gratitude.


What they are saying…

This was amazing. A course in musicology and history. Nico Rhodes has a new fan.”
~ M J Curry Ajijic, Mexico, audience member

“It was amazing! Nico is an outstanding performer, he communicates so well with his audience.
I love ragtime and I love jazz, this was just incredible. And it was such an educational experience!”
~ Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Palm Cabaret Theatre audience member age 75

“The emotion was conveyed very clearly in both the performance and the message delivered of
the history of Joplin and ragtime music. Nico represents the music so well. I loved it. This has to be a feature show!”
~ Puerto Vallarta Palm Cabaret Theatre audience member age 18