The Boogie Woogie is back in B-town

Blues, boogie and rock pianist Daryl Davis, recording artist/actor

The sixth Bloomington Blues & Boogie Woogie Piano Festival weathered the pandemic and may showcase the best celebration yet.

Sunpie Barnes in concert
Sunpie Barnes in concert

WHEN pianist Craig Brenner launched the first Bloomington Boogies Festival in 2015, many music aficionados weren’t sure what to expect but even the term, boogie woogie, suggested high energy entertainment and a good time.

In its first year the festival introduced local audiences to some of the best boogie woogie pianists in the country and a tradition was born.

The festival was quashed by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 but it’s not only back for August 13-15 but by most measures it looks to be the biggest and best fest yet.

Piano student gets a lesson on using the left hand.
Piano student gets a lesson on using the left hand.

Ticketed concerts, free events, workshops in schools. “I think if anything, the artists are more enthusiastic than ever,” Brenner says.

Boogie woogie, blues, stride, zydeco and ragtime will give audiences a variety of related piano styles. And it will be fun because that’s what boogie woogie is meant to be.

“It started out as music to be played when people wanted to let their hair down and dance and drink.

It has that propulsive dance rhythm that makes you want to move,” Brenner says.

The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz says, “Boogie Woogie was the first and to date the only exclusively piano music to issue from the blues.”

It traces its origins to the crowded tenements in the big cities from roughly 1920-45, when all it took to throw a rent party was a working piano, a hot pianist and friends willing to kick in a few bucks or some change to help out a neighbor, knowing that they’d probably be throwing their own party to make rent in the future.

Monica Herzig
Monica Herzig

This year’s festival begins Saturday, Aug. 13 with free events beginning at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market at 9 a.m. and continuing at WFHB’s “Saturday’s Child” live broadcast at the Monroe County History Center at 11 a.m.  

On Saturday afternoon two Master Classes will be offered: Judy Carmichael’s “Stride Piano” class begins at 2 p.m. at the History Center; and the Paolo Alderighi-Stephanie Trick Duo class, “How We Approach Jazz Piano,” begins at 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Preregistration is required for classes and workshops, and attendance is limited.  Register at

Saturday activities conclude with free performances at Cardinal Spirits at 7:30 p.m.

On Sunday, Aug. 14, there are two ticketed concerts at the Monroe Convention Center, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington; the first begins at 1:30 p.m., the second at 5 p.m.  Ticket information is at

French blues pianist Ben Toury
French blues pianist Ben Toury

General admission for adults for each concert is $25 in advance; or purchase the “all-day pass” – tickets to both concerts – for $40 in advance. Tickets for seniors (65+), students (6-17), and children are reduced in price. No all-day passes will be sold on the day of shows.

Artists to perform in the ticketed concerts include:

  • C.J. Chenier – Zydeco accordionist/vocalist son of Clifton Chenier
  • Judy Carmichael – Grammy-nominated interpreter of Harlem stride and swing
  • Daryl Davis – Recording artist/actor, blues, boogie, and rock pianist
  • Rob Rio – “Boss of the Boogie” and jump blues of the 40s & 50s
  • Sunpie” Barnes – New Orleans multi-instrumental Zydeco accordionist
  • Stephanie Trick & Paolo Alderighi – Harlem stride and jazz piano duo
  • Lolly Allen – Up-and-coming award-winning jazz vibraphonist
  • Keith McCutchen – Pianist and composer with roots in Gospel and blues
  • Ben Toury – French blues pianist with showmanship, strength, and speed
  • Michael Drexler – Multi-genre Grammy-nominated pianist/composer
  • Monika Herzig – Author, composer and award-winning Bloomington pianist
  • Caroline Podetti – French professional swing dancer
  • Rhythm Section: Gordon Bonham/guitar, Joe Donnelly/sax, Ron Kadish/bass, Dan Hostetler/drums, and Lori Brenner/additional percussion
  • Enjoy free performers in the lobby before and between ticketed concerts – by Cass Hart, Kid Kazooey, Ross Martinie Eiler, Peter Bailey & more
  • “Finale” with all performers. Performers subject to change

Sunday performances conclude at 8 p.m. with no cover charge at the informal “Bloomington Boogies After Hours” at Che Bello on the Square, hosted by Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues.

On Monday, Aug. 15, students at Fairview Elementary, Templeton Elementary, Jackson Creek Middle School, and Tri-North Middle School will enjoy concerts in school. The festival concludes with more free workshops; information about workshops is at

Late musician Alfred Roberts (left) shaking hands with Boogies founder Craig Brenner of Bloomington.
Late musician Alfred Roberts (left) shaking hands with Boogies founder Craig Brenner of Bloomington. Photo by John Jones