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Eau Claire Ragtime Festival, Inc. History & Education

History | Education Project


2000 The first year, the festival began at 1st Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC), Eau Claire, WI.  Initially, it was one Friday evening concert and one player: Bob Milne. A brief afterglow followed. The recipient was the Community Table, a volunteer entity providing hot meals to those who would otherwise not have one.

The 2001 concerts were held on a Saturday afternoon and evening.  Again, Bob Milne was the solo performer.  That year's beneficiary was Eau Claire's Interfaith Hospitality Network, a local temporary shelter for homeless families. In addition, the festival sparked the formation of the Chippewa Valley Ragtime Society whose quarterly music meetings have been in the community room at the church.

In 2002 we expanded to 3 days of events and called it a Ragtime Benefit Weekend. The beneficiary was Habitat For Humanity.  Performers included Neil Blaze, Alex Sandor,  players from the three Wisconsin ragtime societies and some who came from as far away as California. Events added included cakewalks, sing-along sessions, food and concessions, silent films, open piano room and library display of period dress.

In 2003, Eau Claire’s 4th Annual Ragtime Festival evolved into a 3-day ragtime, early jazz, and blues musical extravaganza featuring five nationally recognized performers. Featured artists: Bob Milne (MI), Sue Keller (IL), John Partridge (CA), Neil Blaze and Alex Sandor (WI). The 2003 beneficiary was Feed My People Food Bank.

The 2004 festival concerts were attended by people from 8 states, Finland and Brazil. Featured performers: Tony Caramia (NY), Bob Milne (MI) and Alex Sandor (WI). The beneficiary was the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic. A Friday spaghetti dinner/ vaudeville show, Sunday piano-pool exhibition were added attractions. 

The 2005 Festival was headlined by the Tichenor Family Trio from CA and MO featuring Trebor Tichenor, Virginia Tichenor and Marty Eggers. Bob Milne returned once again to provide his unique style of ragtime, boogie woogie and blues piano. Tickets to the meals/shows sold out. The beneficiary was Community Table.

In 2006 Festival Featured Artists included Jeff Barnhart (CT, Brian Holland (TX) and Bob Milne (MI). Anne Barnhart, a master flautist, accompanied Jeff on several pieces and was so widely acclaimed that she and Jeff will be among five artists at the 2007 Festival. Jeff is universally acknowledged as a uniquely talented, spirited comedic and serious performer. Brian Holland wowed the audiences with fantastic ragtime and classic jazz renditions. Bob Milne brought the audiences to their feet with his soulful interpretations of well-known and little-known selections. Interfaith Hospitality Network benefited from this Festival.

The 2007 Eau Claire Ragtime Festival featured artists were Jeff and Anne Barnhart, Brian Holland Bob Milne and newcomer to Eau Claire: Dr. Dave Majchrzak (May-zak) mild-mannered veterinarian and ragtime pianist who also performs as pianist for the St. Louis Stompers. This combination of talent proved extremely popular attracting an audience from 18 states and 3 foreign countries.  proceeds benefited the Chippewa Valley Chapter of Habitat For Humanity. 

The 2008 Festival featured Adam Swanson, Sue Keller, Butch Thompson, and Frederick Hodges.  This exciting line-up again brought audience members from across the country.  Generous donations, sponsorship and ticket sales raised $6200 for Feed My People Food Bank.

The Chippewa Valley Free Clinic was the beneficary of the 2009 Festival, and a donation of $8500 was welcomed by that organization.  The Festival featured headliners Mimi Blais, The St. Louis Stompers, and Brian Holland. This was the farewell year for Festival Founder/Music Director Jim Radloff, though he will still be an active in local music activities and continue as a fan and supporter of the Ragtime Festival.

The Community Table received $7800 as a beneficiary for the 2010 year. Patrons enjoyed the sounds of Ivory&Gold (Jeff and Anne Barnhart) as well as Carl Sonny Leyland.

In 2011 Interfaith Hospitality Network received $5050. Featured performers this year included Bill Edwards, Martin Spitznagel, and Meredith Axelrod & Criag Ventresco.

Chippewa Valley Habitat For Humanity received $2500 for the 2012 festival. Attendees enjoyed listening to the sounds of the St. Louis Stompers and Paul Asaro.

A donation of $2600 was made to Feed My People Food Bank after the 2013 festival. Larisa Migachyov, Ivory&Gold and Marty Mincer entertained crowds this year.

Local business and individuals are very supportive of the goals of the festival:

  • Provide top quality entertainment for all ages
  • have fun, and
  • raise money for a local charitable organization.

We offer top-notch, wholesome, toe-tapping entertainment at a reasonable cost and raise a respectable amount for the beneficiary. First Congregational UCC allows use of its large physical plant and six pianos. Nearly 90 volunteers donate time to work the weekend of the festival. We also receive help in the form of newspaper articles, TV time, radio time to boost attendance.

Ongoing support will enable us to continue to bring new and interesting ragtime and early jazz performers to Eau Claire. Local charitable causes will continue to benefit from these activities so everyone ‘wins’. 

If you or your business or organization would like to become a co-sponsor please contact Lorraine Henning at 715.878.4224 or

Education Project

Since 2002, the Ragtime Festival Education Project has been an important addition to the activities of the Ragtime Festival weekend.  Headliner and sideliner performers visit selected area schools to share their talent and the music of the Ragtime era.  Students have the opportunity to see and hear top professional musicians, and learn about this historical form of American music. The performers provide instruction about Ragtime, and demonstrate how today’s music has roots in the music of the early part of the 20th century.  Many of the teachers whose students participate plan classroom lessons about the era prior to the school programs, to further enhance students’ learning.

To make this valuable educational offering possible, grants and donations are sought to fund the lodging and other expenses of the performers. Volunteers provide transportation for the performers to get to the schools.

Plans are already being made for the next Ragtime Festival Education Project, and funding is being sought. If you would like to support this musical education experience for area school children, or if you would like to suggest a school location for a performance, please contact Lorraine Henning, Coordinator of the Ragtime Festival Education Project, 715-878-4224, or