Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation Treasurer Debbie Biermann holds the book “Brun Campbell the Original Ragtime Kid,” by the late Larry Karp, Wednesday morning at the Katy Depot. The Larry Karp Memorial Fund sponsors the program Ragtime Kids, which is now open for applications from junior high and high school-aged youth.

A memorial fund established in remembrance of a man who loved ragtime music is now accepting applications from musically minded youth of junior high and high school age.

Before his death three years ago, Larry Karp was a faithful attendee of the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia. A Seattle-based obstetrician and geneticist, he fell in love with ragtime and wrote several books on Joplin protégé Brun Campbell. After Karp’s death, his wife, Myra, and son, Casey Karp, set up the Larry Karp Memorial Fund. Karp’s friend, ragtime professional violinist David Reffkin, of San Francisco, and Sedalia historian Becky Imhauser also sit on the steering committee.

The memorial fund became available this week to accept applications from youth who will be chosen as the Ragtime Kid for the 2020 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival.

Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation Treasurer Debbie Biermann said the program is for any youth and not restricted to the Sedalia area. Youth who wish to apply must fill out a form and submit material.

“The objectives of the fund are to follow with the legacy of Brun Campbell, who was the original Ragtime Kid,” Biermann said. “Scott Joplin gave Brun that nickname, Brun was a young student when he came to Sedalia, specifically in search of Scott Joplin.”

Campbell wanted Joplin to mentor him and teach him ragtime music. The memorial fund will provide a similar experience for the Ragtime Kid chosen for the 2020 Scott Joplin Festival.

“We want to continue that legacy or tradition …” Biermann continued. “We want to identify junior and high school students who have an interest in ragtime and have somewhat demonstrated that.”

Biermann said the application process has two parts. Applicants would produce a performance audition CD or video and a research paper. Preference would be given to youth who submit both a performance and a paper. Research should be related to the 2020 festival theme, “Women in Ragtime.”

The third criterion, if the applicant chooses, would be to submit an original musical composition.

The youth chosen for the title of 2020 Ragtime Kid will receive $500 to offset travel expenses to bring them to the festival. They will be mentored by a ragtime performer throughout the 2020 festival and network with other performers. The applicant will also receive a bonus package of festival passes to performances.

During the 2020 festival, the selected youth may also have the opportunity to perform on stage with their ragtime mentor. Biermann added the selected youth will need to be accompanied by an adult during the festival.

“After the 2020 festival, the student would then be asked to serve on the steering committee,” Biermann said. “That person would then help from a more youthful perspective. Such as how do we reach out more to youth, how do we incorporate youth.

“Because one of the objectives is we’ve got find younger audiences,” she continued. “Those ragtime fans are out there, we see them. Prior to the 2019 festival, we had at least three students in that age category come to Sedalia in search of information on Scott Joplin.”

Foundation President John Simmons also noted the importance of reaching a younger generation.

“Our foundation is committed to advancing the reach of our ragtime heritage and culture,” he said in a media release. “It is our mission to educate and promote ragtime’s contribution to American music. The Ragtime Kids program is well suited to the enthusiasm that youth have for this music once they discover it. Building on that excitement, with an outlet and pathway that they can travel, builds a foundation for future generations.”

Applications must be submitted to the Larry Karp Memorial Fund Steering Committee by Nov. 1. The youth chosen as the 2020 Ragtime Kid will receive notification by March 1. The winner will be announced at the 2020 festival slated for May 27-30.

Applications may be picked up at the Katy Depot, 600 E. Third St. in Sedalia, or downloaded from www.scottjoplin.org/news.

Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Faith Bemiss is a reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering general assignment, arts, food and entertainment stories. She can be reached at 660-530-0289.

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