How Our 25th Anniversary Came To Be Celebrated In Our 27th Year

Adapted from the liner notes of Live at the Homecoming, a “Reunion concert” recorded at Peabody Institute 1999

The Peabody Ragtime Ensemble formed in March of 1974 when the members were all students at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Listen to Track 24 of Live At The Homecoming for the full story in Ed’s own inimitable words. Twenty-five years passed in a whirlwind blur that encompassed everything in a musician’s repertoire from the ridiculous to the sublime—concerts, weddings, black tie galas, oyster roasts, New Orleans-style funerals, political rallies, groundbreakings, dinner dances, Young Audiences shows. In other words, the complete gamut of corporate, public and private functions for which professional, conservatory-trained musicians provide entertainment in order to obtain artistic gratification and financial security (sometimes a musical oxymoron!).

During that quarter of a century, there were many unforgettable highlights, including performing for Aaron Copland’s 75th birthday (1975), playing for Eubie Blake when he was honored by the Peabody Conservatory (1978) and entertaining the Duke and Duchess of Kent by invitation of Governor Harry Hughes (for whom they were the unofficial “house band” during his two terms as governor from 1979 to 1987). During those years, the Ensemble received many honors: winners of the Baltimore Jazz Quest competition (1985); a WAMMY award from the Washington Area Music Association for “Best Dixieland Band” (1991); a Distinguished Educators award from the Maryland Music Educators Association; an award from Young Audiences of Maryland honoring their 24 years of service to Maryland’s schoolchildren (1997).

But in all those years, the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble never received “official” recognition from the institution that gave them birth. In spite of the countless student orientations, parent weekends and graduations they played, notwithstanding their historic trip to the Soviet Union with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in 1987, and even though the illustrious name of their alma mater was proudly embedded in their own moniker, still, the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble was the unintentionally neglected step-child in the Peabody family.

All of that was destined to change, however, when the Ensemble celebrated its silver anniversary. That’s when the Peabody Alumni Association, recognizing the group’s amazing longevity as well as their significant contribution to Jazz performance and education, made the decision to publicly acknowledge their accomplishments. The forum, they decided, would be a concert during the Association’s annual Homecoming Weekend, and the honor would be in the creation of a new award expressly designed to recognize a Peabody graduate’s impact on music in Maryland, that would be conferred annually upon a deserving alum.

Thus it was that 27 years after its inception, on May 5, 2001, the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble finally celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala reunion concert in Peabody’s Friedburg Hall. Joined by five beloved members emeritus who represented different eras from the band’s past, the Ensemble rocked the hall in ways that founder George Peabody probably never anticipated. Ed Goldstein became the first recipient of the Peabody Alumni Achievement Award Recognizing Outstanding Contributions To Music In Maryland. Gilding the lily, a Governor’s Citation expressing “sincere gratitude for your impressive contribution to the musical life of Maryland” was conferred on the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble by Governor Parris Glendening.

Although this live recording of that concert could not capture the zaniness of Griz Gifford and Jared Denhard parading through the hall doing their Young Audiences rendition of Lassus Trombone, nor the spectacle of Jared, in full Celtic regalia, leading “Peabody and Friends” in the premiere performance of Highland Groove, or the expression on Ed’s face when he was presented with an engraved silver platter commemorating the award, we hope that the sounds of that joyful evening will herald the beginning of another quarter century of music from the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble.