Scott Kirby performs Flint Hills Serenade from his "Prairie Devotionals"
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A native of Ohio, Scott Kirby began his study of music at the age of six, and continued formal piano instruction for seventeen years. He worked under Robert Howat of Wittenberg University of Ohio, and Sylvia Zaremba at the Ohio State University. After obtaining an English degree from Ohio State University, Kirby moved to New Orleans and began his professional music career, as a street performer. In the following four years, he recorded the complete rags of Scott Joplin, and made his debut at all of the major ragtime festivals in the United States, as well as festivals in Belgium, France, Norway, New Zealand, and Hungary.
Kirby has served as Musical Director of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, MO, and of the Rocky Mountain Ragtime and American Music Festival in Boulder, CO, as well as director of the San Juan Islands Ragtime Institute. His appearances include a segment on CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood in 1998, and at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Kirby co-founded a record company (Viridiana Productions, L.L.C.), has made 25 recordings, and has composed over 150 original works for piano and other instruments. Admired by fellow pianists including George Winston, and hailed by Time Magazine as an "ace pianist," CBS News' Charles Osgood agreed that "...Critics call Scott Kirby one of the best interpreters of ragtime music on the scene today."
Kirby's artistic passion grew to include to visual art, and in 2005, while living in France, he completed 75 paintings and 28 piano compositions, including "The Prairie Devotionals," The paintings (belonging to a set entitled "Visions of the Great Plains") and the new musical works set the groundwork for his new multi-media project "Main Street Souvenirs." Kirby now lives in Sandpoint with his wife Marie-Dominique and two daughters Sara and Leah-Marie, and divides his time between composing, painting, performing and teaching.
Kirby has achieved a rarified status as a performer of ragtime and related American styles. Considered "Today's best player of Scott Joplin's music" (Trebor Tichenor, author of Rags and Ragtime), Kirby has appeared at every major ragtime festival in the U.S., plus events in Hungary, Norway, New Zealand, France, England and Belgium. His unique presentation highlights the worlds of Classic Ragtime, New Orleans Jazz, and Blues, then expands to include the marches of John Philip Sousa, the songs of Stephen Foster, Latin-American styles, Afro-Cuban rhythms, European Romanticism, Rock & Roll and Original works ranging from the syncopated to the impressionistic. Kirby's sense of Americana is enhanced by his historical commentary, and also by his art work, a series of watercolors entitled "Visions of the Great Plains," which he presents in either an accompanying exhibit or in a video presentation during the show.
Kirby also specializes in American and Pan-American musical traditions that span 150 years. From the inventive compositions of New Orleans genius Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Classic Ragtime, Cuban Danzas, Brazilian Tangos of Ernesto Nazareth and Creole styles from the Caribbean, to contemporary works by Kirby himself, the Pan-American umbrella is full of color and variety. Kirby weaves these styles together with historical and cultural background that shows the connections and cross-influences that have been occurring in the Western Hemisphere for hundreds of years, and have influenced not only American Popular Music, but also American Classical and Art Music composers.
Scott Kirby has composed over 150 works for solo piano and other instruments, which fall into several categories. The early works follow the example of Scott Joplin and the Classic Ragtime composers, but with a decidedly contemporary harmonic sensibility. Later, using Louis Moreau Gottschalk as a model, Kirby began to draw from a wider variety of Pan-American traditions, Latin-American rhythms, afro-caribbean syncopation, and European Romantic influence. This Terre Verde music naturally morphed into a new style that incorporated less syncopation but more distinctive melodic content - a new and highly romanticized Americana. Some of these works may even be considered "rural impressionism," and many were directly inspired by the Great Plains and prairies of the heartland. Finally, the romantic sensibility, as well as Baroque, Classical, and even Pop Music influences, led into a Minimalist-Romantic language which draws heavily from the land-music connection, and from Kirby's own spiritual journey - one that (like his music) seeks truth in the process itself.