Janice Cleary, Sheet Music Collector, dies at 96

Janice Cleary
Janice Cleary discussing her collection in 2012.

Well known sheet music collector and music aficionados Janice Cleary died February 8, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska, she was 96. She had recently donated her 50,000 plus sheet music collection to the Mississippi State University, home of the Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival. In 2015, she won the Sedalia Scott Joplin Foundation Outstanding Achievement Award. Few other than avid ragtime musicians, historians and fans were acquainted with the recipient, but sheet music collectors knew her well.

Janice Cleary Collection at the Mississippi State University

She became interested in ragtime and sheet music when her husband took her to see Irving Berlin’s 1938 movie, Alexander’s Ragtime Band. She collected Berlin’s music and then ragtime sheets after hearing “Ragtime Bob” Darch play in Omaha, and finally she branched into many other fields of music. She became a familiar figure at music festivals and concerts and scoured the country to add to her collection. Her knowledge of American music was extensive, and she was fond of telling the stories of the composers and interesting compositions. She and John were married 75 years.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Larry Melton was a founder of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in 1974 and the Sedalia Ragtime Archive in 1976. He was a Sedalia Chamber of Commerce manager before moving on to Union, Missouri where he is currently helping to conserve the Ragtime collection of the Sedalia Heritage Foundation. Write him at [email protected].

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