Those of us who live in the Chicago area have heard rumors of a fellow that rose from the gawdawful Henry Horner Homes on the West Side to play, of all things, ragtime piano. Needless to say, this was not a path to riches and celebrity. Reginald Robinson became the Scott Joplin of our time, and nearly starved. He finally gave up, and turned his attention to making enough money through menial jobs to stay alive. Then he received a $500,000 "Genius Grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. last fall. God bless the MacArthur folks - they probably saved this man's art from disappearing. Howard Reich at the Chicago Tribune has written a wonderful story on Reginald.
Let's hope that Reginald continues on his current path - it would be encouraging to see ragtime break out of the museum and become a significant part of our musical landscape again.