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Shaw Festival launches contest to discover next great ragtime pianist

Media Release #3 

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, March 20, 2012 . . . Ragtime piano players wanted! The Shaw Festival is celebrating the launch of its 2012 season and the opening of Ragtime, this year’s marquee production, with Get Ready to Rag! – a contest to find the next great ragtime pianist. The Niagara-on-the-Lake theatre company is inviting amateur piano players over the age of 13 to upload video clips of them playing their favourite ragtime composition to The Shaw’s Facebook page. The winner will receive a Yamaha Clavinova digital piano valued at over $2000 and have the opportunity to perform for a live audience on Ragtime’s opening night. This powerful musical portrait of three families in turn-of-the-century America is a kaleidoscopic depiction of an era of innovation and change, set to the rhythms of ragtime.   

Contestants have three minutes to wow the judges and will be assessed on talent, enthusiasm, and showmanship. The Shaw Festival has recruited a panel of esteemed judges: The Shaw’s Artistic Director, Jackie Maxwell, internationally renowned musician Michael Kaeshammer, Jazz FM’s Heather Bambrick and The Shaw’s Music Director, Paul Sportelli.

The contest will help kick-off the much anticipated 51st season of the Shaw Festival. The Shaw’s 50th season in 2011 was a significant milestone – it marked a half century of world-class theatre, and was one of the most ambitious and highly acclaimed seasons to date. Riding this tide of momentum, The Shaw’s 2012 season boasts a lineup of powerful stories told with humanity and wit. From the sweeping musical saga Ragtime, to Noël Coward’s elegantly uproarious Present Laughter – the Shaw Festival is gearing up for another spectacular season pulsing with energy.

The grand prize includes:

  • Four tickets to the opening night performance of Ragtime
  • Overnight accommodation in Niagara-on-the-Lake courtesy of Vintage Hotels
  • Opportunity to perform in the Festival Theatre lobby on opening night (May 26, 2012)
  • A Yamaha Clavinova digital piano valued at over $2000.

How to enter:
Contestants must upload a video of them playing their favourite ragtime piece and posted it on the Shaw Festival Facebook page (www.facebook.com/shawfestival). Open to Ontario residents only. For complete eligibility requirements and full contest rules, visit www.facebook.com/shawfestival and click on the Shaw Festival contest tab.

Contest Closes:  April 30, 2012
Winner Announced: May 10, 2012

Judging Panel

Jackie Maxwell – Artistic Director and Acting Executive Director, Shaw Festival

Jackie Maxwell is a celebrated director, dramaturge and speaker. Now in her tenth season as the Shaw Festival’s Artistic Director, Ms. Maxwell was born and educated in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She studied Drama at the University of Manchester and acted in both Ireland and England before coming to Canada in 1978. Throughout her long and distinguished career in Canada, Ms. Maxwell has worked extensively as a freelance director and been instrumental in programme creation at many theatre companies. Ms. Maxwell has been dramaturge and teacher for such institutions as the Banff Centre for the Arts, York University, George Brown College, Queen’s University, and especially the National Theatre School in Montreal. In October 2005, Ms. Maxwell received the National Theatre School’s prestigious Gascon-Thomas Award; in June 2007, she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from the University of Windsor and, in 2008, she was awarded the Herbert Whittaker/Drama Bench Award, all in recognition of her exceptional achievements in Canadian theatre. In 2012, Ms. Maxwell will bring E.L. Doctorow’s acclaimed novel Ragtime and William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba to life on stage at The Shaw.

Michael Kaeshammer – Recording Artist

Michael Kaeshammer was born in Offenburg, Germany and studied classical piano for seven years before discovering “boogie-woogie” and stride piano when he was 13. Within three years, Mr. Kaeshammer was playing boogie-woogie piano in clubs, concerts, and festivals all over Germany. He attracted attention almost immediately after the family moved to the West Coast of Canada, performing at blues and jazz festivals across the country. In addition to piano, he also sings blues and jazz. His first album, Blue Keys (BSB Productions), was released in 1996, followed by Tell You How I Feel (Alma Records) in 1998, No Strings Attached (Alma Records) in 2000, Strut (Alma/Universal Music) in 2003, Days Like These (Alert/Universal Music) in 2007 and Lovelight in 2009.

Heather Bambrick – Jazz Vocalist & Broadcaster

Heather Bambrick is the host of Jazz FM’s popular morning show Wake up with Heather. She is a winner of the National Jazz Award for Vocalist of the Year and Broadcaster of the Year and is in demand as a performer, educator and host. Ms. Bambrick was a founding member of the Beehive Singers, whose debut recording won them a Jazz Report Awards for Best Vocal Group. Both of Heather’s solo CDs (It’s About Time, and Those Were The Days) were nominated for Best Jazz Recording at the East Coast Music Awards.

Paul Sportelli – Music Director, Shaw Festival

Paul Sportelli returns this year for his fourteenth season as The Shaw’s Music Director. Mr. Sportelli’s growing list of credits at the Shaw Festival includes musical director/conductor and co-writer for Maria Severa and Tristan, music director and conductor for My Fair Lady, One Touch of Venus, and many, many more. He made his Broadway debut conducting Aspects of Love and his Massey Hall debut conducting a 32-piece orchestra performing with Colin James and his Little Big Band. Mr. Sportelli has also conducted at the Skaneateles Music Festival (NY) and was musical director for Harbourfront World Leaders galas for Stephen Sondheim and Joni Mitchell. He received his Bachelor of Music degree and Performers’ Certificate from the Eastman School of Music and his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. This season at The Shaw, Mr. Sportelli is the musical director for Ragtime and Trouble in Tahiti.

For tickets or info about The Shaw, visit: www.shawfest.com.

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In the spirit of Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival provokes the mind and stirs the soul through a theatre experience so compelling that, year after year, ever-broadening groups of artists, audiences and supporters are drawn to our work in Niagara-on-the-Lake and beyond.

Please visit our website at www.shawfest.com/news  for other Shaw Festival media releases.

Image Bank
Our digital image bank features 300 dpi photographs of the 2012 season handbook photo illustrations, members of the Ensemble, photographs of our theatres, Bernard Shaw and the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. To access our image bank, please contact:

Odette Yazbeck 
Public Relations Director 
905-468-2153 or 1-800-657-1106 ext. 2222

Jenniffer Anand
Public Relations Coordinator
905-468-2153 or 1-800-657-1106 ext. 2224

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