The Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival is partly about the music and partly an opportunity to soak up history. Kyle Siegel figured that if he wanted to learn more about ragtime and Sedalia’s favorite native son, there was no better position to do it from than Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation director.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Siegel, 35, said on Thursday as he took inventory at the foundation’s store at 507 S. Ohio Ave. “I’m going to attend more concerts and meet the performers. I enjoy ragtime, but I’m not as familiar with the names of the rags and the performers, so hopefully at this time next year, I’ll be as knowledgeable about Scott Joplin and ragtime as any aficionado.”
Following last year’s festival, Stacy Purvis retired after eight years as director, and then Melany Satnan briefly held the position before resigning. Siegel was hired on April 25.
“This year is more of a learning experience, because I jumped in a little over a month before the festival,” said Siegel, a 1995 Smith-Cotton High School graduate. “My main job is putting the program together and getting the store open.”
Siegel said he is just one member of a team of 12 that includes 10 board members and artistic director Dave Majchrzak, who is also a performer.
“The board has stepped up and done a fantastic job,” Siegel said. “Everybody has taken over a key element of the festival and made it their own. And now we’re combining it to get it organized.”
This year’s event, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Joplin’s “Kismet Rag,” is largely just sticking with what works. It’ll offer all the free outdoor shows and ticketed indoor shows that people have come to expect.
But Siegel — who has noticed the festival tends to draw an older crowd — is already thinking ahead to next year and how he can expand the audience.
“What I’d like to do next year is get youths involved, and I’m not necessarily talking about teenagers, because by the time you’re a teenager you’re pretty much set with what you like and don’t like,” Siegel said. “I want to get kindergartners and up involved. If they start listening to the music when they’re younger, that will carry on until they’re older, I believe.
“We get a lot of people who travel from out of state and out of the country, so I’d like to have something for kids next year to give people incentive to bring their children or grandchildren. Ragtime seems to be a very upbeat, bouncy type of music, and I think kids click with that fairly easily if you get them at an early age.”
One thing that is new this year is the store’s location. It was formerly in the Hotel Bothwell before moving to the Furnell building on Ohio Avenue in January. It will be the home base throughout the four-day festival that starts Wednesday. The store offers CDs and sheet music from performers, as well as T-shirts, mugs and pins with the 2013 “Kismet Rag” logo.
While the store is not a full-fledged museum, it does feature vintage memorabilia on the walls.
“It’s a little smaller than the old store, but it’s newer and we were able to decorate it and design it, and I think they’ve done a fantastic job,” Siegel said. “We got some new items from Applebee’s and Perkins, and we’ve had some other items donated as well. I’d hate to call it a museum, but it’s a little bit of history, so when you come in and shop, there are things to look at. A museum is something for the future.”
Despite being a Sedalia native, Siegel — who has a background in event planning and retail management — feels he is catching up for lost time with his new job.
“It’s ingrained in you at an early age,” he said of Sedalia’s ragtime connection. “I knew Scott Joplin’s name before I knew any of his music. Obviously, I had knowledge of ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ and ‘The Entertainer’ through movies and TV shows, but when you’re a kid you don’t care so much about the history of the town you’re living in. It’s something you pick up when you get older.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival
WHEN: Wednesday through June 8
WHERE: Various venues in Sedalia
PHONE: 826-2271 or 619-1741