Shaw Festival Launches Contest to Discover Next Great Ragtime Pianist


(Toronto, March 21, 2012.) The Shaw Festival is celebrating the launch of its 2012 Season, and the opening of this year’s marquee production, Ragtime, with Get Ready to Rag! – a contest that aims to discover the next great ragtime pianist. The Niagara-based theatre company is inviting amateur piano players over the age of 13 to submit video clips of themselves playing their favourite ragtime composition, and submit them via Shaw’s Facebook page. The winner will receive a Yamaha digital piano valued at over $2000 and will 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.

Get Ready to Rag! Challenges piano players by giving them only 3-minutes to wow judges. Entrants will be judged on talent, enthusiasm, and showmanship. The Shaw Festival has recruited a panel of esteemed judges which includes Shaw’s Artistic Director, Jackie Maxwell, internationally renowned musician Michael Kaeshammer, Jazz FM’s Heather Bambrick, and Shaw’s Music Director, Paul Sportelli.

The contest will help kick-off the much anticipated 51st Season of the Shaw Festival. 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, Shaw’s 2012 Season boasts a lineup of powerful stories told with humanity and wit. From the sweeping musical saga Ragtime, to Noel Coward’s elegantly uproarious Present Laughter – The Shaw Festival is gearing up for another spectacular season pulsing with energy.


  •    - 4 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 digital piano valued at over $2000


Contestants must upload a video themselves playing a favourite piece of ragtime piano and have it posted on The Shaw Festival Facebook page.

Contest Opens: March 26, 2012.
Contest Closes:  April 30, 2012. 
Winner Announced: May 10, 2012.


Jackie Maxwell – Artistic Director & Acting Executive Director, The 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 April, 2012 Ms. Maxwell will bring E.L. Doctorow’s acclaimed novel Ragtime to life on stage at The Shaw.

Michael Kaeshammer – Musician

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, 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 – Host, Jazz FM

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. Heather 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, The 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 include 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.  Paul made his conducting debut in Aspects of Love on Broadway, and his Massey Hall debut conducting a 32-piece orchestra performing with Colin James and his Little Big Band. Paul has also conducted at the Skaneateles Music Festival (NY) and was musical director for Harbourfront World Leaders galas for Stephen Sondheim and Joni Mitchell. Paul 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, Paul is the Musical Director for Ragtime and Trouble in Tahiti.


The Shaw Festival is one of North America’s most celebrated theatre companies. For more than 50 years, The Shaw has surprised, provoked, and entertained audiences by presenting insightful and compelling stories about the human condition. Rich in history and tradition, The Shaw has become a beloved Canadian institution and an international benchmark for excellence in theatre. Yet it is The Shaw’s passionate commitment to innovation that keeps the productions fresh and relevant to those in-the-know. Audiences are captivated by timeless productions not only by namesake playwright Bernard Shaw and his peers, but also by contemporary writers who continue to question the status quo and rail at the powers-that-be in new and radical ways


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