Tony Caramia provided an impressive piano performance as part of the Eastman Faculty Artist Series on Sept. 18, at Kilbourn Hall. The concert was devoted to the American genre ragtime, consisting of 19 pieces by 10 different composers from different periods and countries besides America.

Even more impressive was the fact that all were performed by memorization. Although the Sunday afternoon concert didn’t sell out like last week’s Ying Quartet, the audience was still visibly eager to see Caramia perform and there was almost a line down the middle of the hall because viewers were longing to watch his swift hands.

Jazz piano has a strikingly different feel than any other style and the first three tunes Caramia played were clear-cut demonstrations of just how tricky his fingers were.

They had the customary fast, upbeat tempo of a rag and they all possessed that ragtime rhythm that immediately brings the typical image of a 1920s saloon to mind. They had a very similar sound though, and it began to look as though the concert might turn out to be pretty boring.

However, Caramia quickly erased any thoughts of uniformity by featuring two pieces by Pauline Alpert, “March of the Blues” and “Ivory Tips.” Alpert was one of the first female students to enroll at Eastman in the 1920s.

Caramia continued by playing compositions by several European artists. The European rag had a much different vibe to it for almost indistinguishable reasons. Some of the works had a much slower tempo, but they all seemed to have a lot more feeling behind the music. It was still rag, but with a different style and a bit of a European twist.

The post-intermission segment was a bit shorter than the first segment had been, but perhaps even more impressive.

One piece that especially stood out was “Sweet Lorraine.” It was a beautiful piece, and Caramia really brought it to life with a soothing flow.

After finishing the last piece, “Tricky Fingers” – which was slow, quiet and craftily placed in the program – Caramia received a standing ovation. The audience was taken by surprise when he returned to perform a short encore that ended the performance on a sad but powerful, unresolved note. The effect of which was incredibly moving. The entire performance was nothing short of delightful. It was longer than anticipated, but completely enjoyable.

The faculty performances at Eastman are incredible opportunities to see talented musicians at an affordable price. In fact, most of the shows are free to UR ID holders.

In the upcoming weeks there are five more performances at Kilbourn Hall, including another feature of the Faculty Artist Series, Robert Swensen, tenor, at 8 p.m. on Sept. 20.

If the last two concerts in the fall concert calendar are any implication at all of how the next will be, everyone who can make it should definitely find a way to get out to Kilbourn Hall.

DeRose can be reached at

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