Ethan Uslan is a classically trained pianist with a degree in Piano Performance from the prestigious Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.
So what is he doing wearing spats and pounding out Maple Leaf Rag?
“Ragtime is my addiction,” says Charlotte’s most innovative entertainer. “I decided in college I wasn’t going to devote my life to being the ten-billionth pianist to play Chopin and Beethoven. The more I played ragtime, the more I knew it was right for me.”
For the past 8 years, he has delighted audiences with his unique offerings of ragtime, jazz – and whatever the spirit moves him to do. He’s won international competitions, played across Europe, been on Prairie Home Companion, performed with the Charlotte Symphony, cut three CDs – and this month will be here in Davidson for a special afternoon of musical fun.
Ethan is the featured guest for Music at St. Alban’s at 3 p.m. on October 19. It’s a show for young and old – with a special treat for the young. He would love to have children and youth sit in the seats closest to him so they can both see and hear what ragtime is all about. The Old Time Piano competitions are full of junior players, and a number of his piano students are learning to play ragtime along with the classics.
“Kids love the rhythms and the tunes,” he said, “and who doesn’t like to tap their feet? The first time you hear it, you get it, and that’s true for any age.”
You might think that once he found ragtime, his career just took off. It wasn’t quite like that; he wasn’t sure he could pull off such a novel career, so his first job out of college was as a librarian at Johnson C. Smith University, His head was in the books, but his heart and his hands were still at the piano, and he finally gave it a try. Audiences loved him, and that led to what has become a sparkling career.
Ethan is married to Kate, who plays a mean marimba, and is father to a nine-year-old budding blues guitar player and a five-year-old yet to pick his instrument. While the movies and the competitions always feature old, upright pianos (some even out of tune), he prefers playing a well-tuned grand like the Petrof he has at home. “The better the piano, the better the music,” he says.