Max Morath occupies a unique space as a spokesman for American life and music. He played a key role in the revival of ragtime music in the 1970’s, following his Off-Broadway one-man show Turn of the Century (1969). Four touring productions followed, each one launched Off-Broadway in New York or at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. — most recently Living a Ragtime Life and 2004’s Ragtime and Again. He retired from performing in 2007, having logged over 5000 engagements in the USA and Canada. He remains active today as a writer, lecturer, and consultant.
A native of Colorado Springs, Morath worked his way through Colorado College as a radio announcer and jazz sideman, graduating with a B.A. in English (1948.) Working as a pianist for melodramas and summer stock in the West, he developed a fascination with ragtime and the America that produced it. Graduate studies at the Stanford- NBC Radio & Television Institute in 1951 sharpened his media skills, and in 1960, for Public Television, he wrote and performed the nationally-distributed series The Ragtime Era (1960) and the 1962 series Turn of the Century — 28 half-hour programs exploring American popular culture through our music and theatre.
In commercial broadcasting he has appeared on The Bell Telephone Hour, the Kraft Music Hall, The Tonight Show, and on regular sessions for many years with Arthur Godfrey on CBS radio. Appearances on Public Broadcasting have included NPR’s Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland and the Wynton Marsalis series Making the Music. In 2002 he was commissioned to write NPR’s Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards (Putnam/Perigee,) and he contributed the essay “Ragtime Then and Now” to The Oxford Companion to Jazz (Oxford 2000).
Morath holds a Master’s Degree in American Studies from Columbia University (1996). His graduate thesis is devoted to the life and work of songwriter Carrie Jacobs-Bond (1862-1946), further explored in his novel I Love You Truly (iUniverse, 2008.) Current projects include consultation with music publisher E. B. Marks Music Company on The Music of James Reese Europe: Complete Published Works.
He and his wife, the writer and photographer Diane Fay Skomars, published The Road to Ragtime (Donning 1999). They currently reside in Duluth, Minnesota.