The Old-Time Music Preservation Association, Inc., (OMPA) an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, was formed in 1990 to educate the general public about Ragtime melodies and other popular music written prior to 1930, at the end of the “Roaring 20s.” Standard tunes, waltz tunes, Joplin tunes, railroad tunes, simple or complex, melodic or chaotic, humorous or mournful—they’re all equal when performed in the OMPA music tent.
It’s a huge effort by our unpaid, all-volunteer staff, many giving 20 or 30 or more years, or traveling untold miles, to present the best combination of Ragtime, standard and Tin Pan Alley tunes for you to enjoy or perform. Played by young and old, the classically-schooled or self-taught, all this music is concentrated for five days around the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest each Memorial Day weekend in Peoria, IL.
The unwitting collaborators in our efforts are several. Our best source for Junior Division contestants are music teachers who let down their guard and allow students to learn the Maple Leaf Rag—and family members who push youngsters to learn that “Sting” song. With the classics thrown temporarily aside, students come for performance experience and to maybe win some money and a trophy. Next, there’s Sheet Music Magazine, which put a photo of colorful contestant Guy Bishop on their cover in 1978, along with a story and pictures about our event that ran three pages, attracting many Regular Division contestants from across the country and enlarging our spectator pool. Through the years Sheet Music has continued to support us editorially and is the donor of the junior champion’s prize money again this year. Their readers comprise a top source for prospective contestants who are learning tunes from the magazine while playing at home—and waiting at the mailbox to see what’s in the latest issue.
The contest’s budget for prize money, trophies, and other expenses to stage the contest is supported by the admission fees we charge during our contest weekend and through the contributions of our friends and members. Because money is tight, we’ve lowered the price of our All-Event ticket to attract more Peoria-area spectators. And, our new hotel has lower rates than our old venue—to the benefit of those coming in from out of town. This will be the year to get More-4-Less at the piano contest, even before mentioning our stellar guest artists this year—Ian and Regina Whitcomb and Johnny Maddox and Adam Swanson.
Those who’ve just given us money, some as memorials to others who enjoyed the contest for many years, are many and appreciated. They are: Faye Ballard, $75.00; Ken Brons, $275; Wilma and Al Brons, $2,500; Jim and Linda Denning, $100; Linda Earleywine, $110; Linda Harmon, $150; Bob Harrell, $6,650; Leona Hill Memorials, $800; Ardena Hoffman, $100; Marilyn Keener, $50; Ken Kidd, $12,500; Lee and Marylou Remling, $413; Joan Roberts, $200; Roberta Robertson, $450; Jack Roseman, $1,700; Barbara Schuler, $3,500; Kathy Schuler, $800; Florence Stevenson, $1,000; Larry Wade, $200; and Louis Zorko, $100.
Even better, we’d welcome you as a member who’d like to help at the contest in some way, whether its selling or taking tickets, guiding contestants to the stage from the green room or leading the activities in one of our party rooms. You can become an Annual Member, a Life Member, a Piano Pal—or just contribute to our efforts by check or now using PayPal.
Before its incorporation, the contest was held under the auspices of Monticello Railway Museum, another not-for-profit educational and historical group that produced the contest to attract riders to its demonstration railroad in Central Illinois.