Searching for Donald Ashwander: A Tribute

In July of 1994, my first concert in the Chicago region was greeted on the same morning by my waking up and smelling gas in my suburban Chicago apartment (located charmingly right next to the railroad tracks). I called 911, and the fire department summarily broke down the door of the person in the basement apartment and switched off their oven. In addition to nearly blowing up the entire building, other inhabitants were merrily keying cars and slashing tires. A few months later, I stood by a window leaking cold air and watched the snow envelop everything in sight, making it impossible to go out. I kept trying to console myself that at least I no longer lived in a dilapidated building on a sixteen-degree slant, requiring all my worldly possessions be put at one end for fear of them sliding down the other, and where rats ran all over my feet when I tried make breakfast for myself. Suddenly, the land-line phone rang (this was in the pre-smart-phone era, don’t forget). I picked it up, not expecting much. But there was Donald Ashwander on the phone! “Hello, Matthew, how are you?” “Oh, I’m alright – what’s up with you?” “Why, I’m just calling to say how much I enjoyed your paper!” Donald was referring to a school paper I had written comparing ragtime culture between the initial period of popularity, and the previous thirty years. It was something to which I
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Matthew de Lacey Davidson is a pianist and composer currently resident in Nova Scotia, Canada. His first CD, Space Shuffle and Other Futuristic Rags (Stomp Off Records), contained the first commercial recordings of the rags of Robin Frost. His second CD, The Graceful Ghost: Contemporary Piano Rags (Capstone Records), was the first commercial compact disc consisting solely of post-1960 contemporary piano ragtime, about which Gramophone magazine said, …a remarkably talented pianist…as a performer Davidson has few peers…”

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