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Rediscovering Pittsburgh's Ragtime Roots

Boring Pittsburgh

Recently rediscovered compositions of early 20th century ragtime tunes will be presented by the Allegheny City Ragtime Orchestra as tribute to the rich musical history of Pittsburgh.

Noted pianist and conductor Tom Roberts says it took some digging to piece together Pittsburgh’s jazz history between Stephen Foster and bebop, but results reveal a wealth of contributions by local musicians.

According to Roberts, ragtime, like many other innovative musical genres, grabbed the attention of listeners because of the jolty, irregular nature of the beats.

“It caught attention because of the way the rhythms were displaced. Ragtime means ‘ragged time,’” says Roberts.

Much of the sheet music was found while searching on E-bay, Roberts explains, but the Carnegie Library in Oakland was especially helpful in obtaining the compositions. Some of the more famous tunes from Pittsburgh include George Reeg’s Piccalilli Rag and Carl Bruno’s Pittsburgh Gazette March.