Adam G. Swanson
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Adam G. Swanson
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|Birth name||Adam Swanson|
|Born||1992 (age 28–29)|
Flint, Michigan, U.S.A.
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|Citizenship||United States of America|
Adam Swanson (born 1992, Flint, Michigan)is a world-renowned pianist of vintage American popular music, specializing in ragtime, early jazz, and the Great American Songbook. He is the only four-time winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and has been a featured performer and lecturer at ragtime and jazz festivals both across the United States and internationally.
When he was ten years old, Swanson first heard the “Maple Leaf Rag” and asked his mother, a casual pianist, to teach it to him. After playing along with her for two months, Swanson had already surpassed his mother's abilities and sought out professional teachers, the first of whom reportedly “struggled with what to do with a kid who couldn’t read a note, but could already play ragtime!" In fact, after learning to read musical notation, Swanson quickly progressed through a succession of "eight or nine" piano teachers before finding Waleed Howrani, the well-known composer-pianist who is both a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory and a student of Emil Gilels.
Though he had started playing only in 2002, Swanson's extraordinary progress enabled him to win the junior division of the 2003 World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, becoming its youngest champion ever.. He went on to win the junior division two more times, and in 2008, at the age of sixteen, became the youngest ever to win the adult World Championship. After subsequent victories in the 2009 and 2010 contests Swanson retired from the competition, only to return in 2015 and become the only four-time adult world champion in the competition's forty-six year history.
Formal musical education
Swanson has said he learned a great deal from Waleed Howrani with whom he worked in Michigan as a teen and also from Dr. Lisa Campi, his undergraduate piano professor for four years at Fort Lewis College. He received his Bachelor of Arts in classical piano from Fort Lewis in 2014 and in 2016 was awarded a masters in musicology from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University where he studied under noted musical historian Dr. Susan Weiss.
In 2007, Adam Swanson was featured with the late John Arpin at the Bohem Ragtime and Jazz Festival in Hungary. Since then, he has played multiple concerts in Switzerland and Australia and performed at many music festivals and concert venues throughout the United States, including New York's Carnegie Hall where he appeared in 2012 at the age of nineteen, performing with multi-platinum selling artist Michael Feinstein. He has also accompanied silent films at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and, in 2013, performed on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage in Washington, D.C.
Swanson has released six solo and six collaborative CD collections of ragtime and popular American music. The latter include albums with pianist Frederick Hodges; former rock star and ragtime composer Ian Whitcomb; the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra; Jeff Johnson and the Redcliff Rounders; Grammy award-winning drummer Danny Coots; and 1950s recording artist Johnny Maddox.
Some of Adam's solo recordings have been used on the CBC TV show Murdoch Mysteries. He also provided the piano accompaniment for “Western Surprise,” a short, modern-day western parody, black and white silent movie viewable on YouTube.
Adam Swanson is featured as "The Prodigy" in the 2012 movie “The Entertainers,” which Amazon Prime Video describes as “an award-winning feature documentary about six piano players striving to win the World Championship of Old-Time Piano.” The movie contains scenes and musical selections from two of Adam's four adult championship years at the competition. In early 2020, the film had a rating of 4.9 out of 5 on Amazon Prime and 8.7/10 on IMDb.com.
Adam's performances have been viewed millions of times on YouTube, where some of his presentations on the history of ragtime and American popular music are also available. The latter include seminars on the life and music of his mentor Johnny Maddox and on other ragtime artists and composers, one of whom is the former British rock star and ragtime composer Ian Whitcomb. Swanson helped Whitcomb produce and present "My Life in Ragtime," a retrospective of Whitcomb's career which the two artists presented at the 2017 West Coast Ragtime Festival. In the YouTube video of the event, Swanson performs several original Whitcomb rags in a style the veteran composer describes as "impeccable."
Swanson has performed regularly for many years at the classic Diamond Belle Saloon in Durango, Colorado, where he first met Johnny Maddox in 2004.
(During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swanson has been live-streaming performances from his Facebook page.)
Johnny maddox as adam’s musical mentor
Since his initial victory in the junior division of the Old Time Piano Playing Contest in 2003, Swanson has had many teachers, most notably Waleed Howrani and Dr. Lisa Campi, both accomplished classical pianists. He has also worked with and learned from many experienced popular performers including Bob Milne, Jeff Barnhart, Max Morath, Bob Seeley, Terry Waldo, Richard Dowling, Peter Mintun, and many others. Nevertheless, he cites the legendary Johnny Maddox as his greatest inspiration and most important influence.
In 2004, when he was twelve, Swanson had the opportunity to play for Maddox who in the 1950s had released the first million-selling, all-piano record in history. Maddox was impressed with the youngster and invited him to visit his Tennessee home, something Swanson ended up doing every summer for the next ten years.
In spite of their sixty-five year age difference, the two piano players developed a close relationship and a mutual respect which intensified young Swanson's already growing interest in ragtime and early 20th century American popular music, an interest that eventually led to his graduate degree in musicology from Peabody and to his extensive collection of early 20th century sheet music, player piano rolls, and cinema-related memorabilia. (Swanson frequently shares samples from his collection on Facebook.)
Today, Swanson is considered an expert on ragtime in general and Maddox in particular. As early as 2007, he began conducting seminars at ragtime festivals, sharing his knowledge of these subjects.Before Maddox's passing in 2018, the legendary pianist would occasionally join Adam on stage for interviews during such presentations.
Appreciation from other artists
Though Swanson excels at several genres of popular American music, he remains best known as one of America's leading performers of ragtime. Accordingly, numerous noted American pianists and composers have spoken highly of his work, especially ragtime scholars and artists who are grateful the young musician is preserving the time-honored musical tradition from which many other American musical styles evolved.
Two mementos in particular from Swanson's large collection of memorabilia include such accolades: an autographed picture from 1940s piano child prodigy Frank "Sugar Chile" Robinson and an autographed copy of sheet music from million-selling composer and pianist Irving Fields. Robinson, who Swanson believes may be the sole popular boogie-woogie and jazz pianist from the 1940s still living, inscribed his picture "To Adam Swanson, another musical genius and also one of my fans" and in 2014, the then ninety-eight year old Fields autographed his arrangement of Stardust for the artist writing, "To Adam Swanson, A wonderful Pianist! A wonderful personality! I predict a great success in your future."
In 2009, Larry Karp in "The Ragtime Fool" described Swanson as "at age 17, already a first-line ragtime performer and historian," and more recently,'Perfessor' Bill Edwards on RagPiano.com said Adam "has been and continues to be the future of ragtime." Similarly, in 2015, Johnny Maddox told his Gallatin, TN hometown paper that Swanson was “helping to keep ragtime alive” and “carrying on where I left off.”
When Maddox retired in 2012, his comments to the Durango Herald about Swanson made it clear he believed Adam was definitely up to “carrying on” for him. In that parting interview, his famous mentor gave a compliment the young pianist will probably always prize, telling the newspaper that Adam Swanson "can make a piano knit a pair of socks!"
2008: On a Circular Staircase (solo CD)
2009: Seven Little Stars (And the Man in the Moon) (w Johnny Maddox)
2010: Double Trouble: Hot Piano Duets (w Frederick Hodges)
2011: Sunshine from the Fingers (solo CD)
2011: I Love a Piano (w Ian Whitcomb and Danny Coots) (27)
2013: Rare and Rip-Roarin’ Rags of 1912 (solo CD)
2014: SouthWestern Swing (w Jeff Johnson and the “Redcliff Rounders”)
2014: Jazz Nocturne (solo CD)
2015: Hum All Your Troubles Away (w Danny Coots)
2018: Revival Ragtime (solo CD)
2019: Jazzin’ the Blues Away (w The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra)
2019: “An Evening in the Diamond Belle Saloon” (solo two-CD set)
2003: Youngest winner ever, World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, Junior Division
2004, 2006: Winner, World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, Junior Division
2008: Youngest winner ever, World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, Adult Division
2009, 2010: Winner World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest
2015: First and only four-time winner, World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest
In the media
- Norton, L. (2019, November 15) Skype interview
- "The Syncopated Times". Syncopated Times. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Old Time Piano Contest - Past Winners". Old Time Piano Contest. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "The Entertainers Movie - The Film". The Entertainers Movie. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Bohem Ragtime and Jazz Fesztival". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Michael Feinstein, Kate Baldwin, Adam Swanson, Rob Berman Conjure Tin Pan Alley Classics in NYC Feb. 29". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Kennedy Center Artists - Adam Swanson". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Adam G Swanson - Albums". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Visiting Artist - Adam Swanson". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Western Surprise". YouTube. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
- "The Entertainers (2012)". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Adam Swanson Pianist (targeted YouTube search)". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Adam Swanson Interview with the Legendary Johnny Maddox". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Ian Whitcomb - My Life in Ragtime". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "World-renowned Young Pianist has a Passion for Old-Time Music". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Ragtime legend's legacy continues from Gallatin home". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- "Tickling the ivories one last time". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
- Adam Swanson on facebook
- Adam Swanson youtube channel
- Adam Swanson on spotify
- Adam Swanson on youtube music
- Adam Swanson — Piedmont Piano Company
- Adam Swanson's Millennial Syncopations – The Syncopated
- Adam Swanson – 9/21/17 | Olin Concert Series | Bates College
- Adam Swanson - UC Davis Arts
- Adam Swanson - The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre
- Adam Swanson – Rivermont Records
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