Mike Schwimmer
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Update 5/7/06

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For 50 years, Mike Schwimmer has passionately promoted traditional jazz and ragtime as a performer, presenter, radio host, music dealer, and historian.

Mike graduated from Indiana University in 1954, where he became a the drummer in his fraternity’s Dixieland jazz band. (He was later to donate his extensive jazz and ragtime collection of records, tapes and books to Indiana University’s Archive of Traditional Music.)

After serving his stint in the U.S. Army, Mike became fascinated by the sound of the washboard in early Southside Chicago jazz bands. He built a few models to experiment with, and by the early 1960’s, he was playing and recording with various jazz groups in and around his Chicago home. He has now perfected that “instrument” into what he now calls a Rhythmboard. Designed especially for him by a ragtime fan/engineer, Mike performs with it today at ragtime and jazz festivals throughout the country.

In the 1960’s and ‘70s, Mike conducted radio programs of traditional jazz and big band music. He was one of the first to introduce ragtime in these programs - tracing its history and playing classic rags as well as the few contemporary compositions that were then being composed. For 25 years, he collected and sold player piano rolls, obtaining many hard-to-find jazz and ragtime titles which he had copied and made available to other collectors. In 1981, he founded the Red Rose Ragtime Jazz Band, a 7-piece group that performs classic jazz tunes as well as ragtime in a band format. The band has played many concerts throughout the U.S. and Europe.

For the past several years, Mike has been percussionist and emcee of the ragtime quartet, The Elite Syncopators. He also accompanies many fine solo performers such as Jeff Barnhart, Scott Kirby, Sue Keller, Brian Holland, Trebor Tichenor and others at festivals and concerts. He can be heard as a percussionist and vocalist on a number of CD recordings with the Red Rose Ragtime Jazz Band, the Elite Syncopators, Jeff Barnhart and Brian Holland, and as a singer of ragtime songs with Chicago ragtime legend, Bob Wright. His latest recording is a mixture of ragtime and jazz with a new group, the Holland Rhythm Company where he features his Rhythmboard in addition to his drum brushwork.

Mike has been an emcee/presenter at the Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia MO, the Classic Ragtime Festival in Indianapolis, the Tom Turpin Ragtime Festival in Savannah, and the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento. In 2003, he received the prestigious Scott Joplin Award for Achievement in the Field of Ragtime bestowed by the Scott Joplin Ragtime Foundation of Sedalia, Missouri. He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife, Kit.

Brian Holland pays tribute to Mike in the liner notes of the Stompin' 'Em Down CD (2002): Jeff [Barnhart] and I would like to thank Mike not only for his wonderful work on this CD, but also for the years of musical joy he has given to all who know him. You truly are our "Musical Dad."