Pianist delivers ragtime and the rails to benefit Wheels Museum - Albuquerque Journal

Pianist delivers ragtime and the rails to benefit Wheels Museum

Pianist Adam Swanson will perform a benefit concert for the Wheels Museum on Sunday, July 31, at First Unitarian Church. Swanson is known for performing ragtime music. (Courtesy of Adam Swanson)

Ragtime music is Adam Swanson’s favorite.

The pianist has made a career of paying homage to this genre.

“Ragtime is the first truly original American music,” Swanson says. “Without ragtime, there’s no blues or jazz or rock and roll. It’s very happy and fun music. Generally speaking, the music is very upbeat and I think people need it at this time.”

Swanson returns to Albuquerque to take part in the “Ride the Musical Rails” performance from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at First Unitarian Church, 3701 Carlisle NE.

Swanson’s performance is a benefit concert for the Wheels Museum.

The Wheels Museum is a non-profit organization that works to preserve the history of transportation and travel, especially as it pertains to Albuquerque and the West.

He says it’s a perfect fit because the music he performs was created during the heyday of the railroad.

“I performed a few years ago for the benefit and it was standing room only,” he says. “I’m always looking forward to performing for a live audience.”

Swanson is not only a pianist. He’s a historian of vintage American popular music, including ragtime, early jazz, the Great American Songbook and more. He’s been a featured performer and lecturer at ragtime and jazz festivals across the United States and abroad, and he is a four-time winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest.

Swanson is based in Colorado and performs shows at The Strater Hotel in Durango.

He also works with the Durango Arts Center with performing music to the classic silent movies.

“I’m going to perform music to Buster Keaton films,” he says. “One of the films will be ‘The General’ from 1926. It’s always a challenge to put together music for the film.”

Swanson made his debut at Carnegie Hall at the age of 19.

Today, at 30, he is a sought after performer.

“I’m probably one of the only people that is 30 years old and makes a living doing ragtime,” he says. “What I love about the music is that I uncover something new every day.”

Swanson is a collector of old sheet music and 78 (rpm) records.

“I have thousands of pieces of music that I’ve never played,” he says. “During my shows, I try to not play the same thing over and over. This set will be completely different than my previous Albuquerque show. Since we’re doing a benefit for the Wheels Museum, I may do some railroad songs. I also talk about the history of the songs, so it’s a complete show.”

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