Ragtime World Mourns the Passing of Nan Bostick

By Eric Marchese
April, 2012

Sad news in the ragtime world: Nan Bostick passed away at 7:00PM on March 26, 2012. All who knew her had come to learn that she had been battling cancer since 2011 and that she said she didn't expect to live past the following spring, but her passing still came as a shock.

Nan came to the ragtime dance late in life after discovering that her grandmother's older brother was ragtime pioneer Charles N. Daniels. She then dedicated herself to learning, performing and recording Daniels' music—his own compositions as well as the many dozens (or perhaps even hundreds) he published throughout his lifetime. Although Daniels had died before Nan was born, she always spoke fondly and familiarly about "Uncle Charlie" and his many musical accomplishments.

Nan also did significant work researching, digging up information, and writing about ragtime's many unsung women composers.

When RagFest 2000 was being created over 13 years ago, Nan was one of the first performers I contacted, inviting her to be part of what would hopefully become an annual event. Thanks largely to her great showmanship and musicianship, that first RagFest was a success, and Nan returned many times over to duplicate that triumph.

Nan and Shirley Case at RagFest 2008

As we think of her, we can all bow our heads and send a good and loving ragtime thought/prayer for her, and be grateful that we had her in our lives over the past 10+ years.


Additional Remembrances

By Gary Rametta

As the ragtime community was fairly close knit back in the '90s when I first became involved, I soon after heard of Nan by name, but never had the pleasure of meeting her personally. That changed on October 28 2001, when Nan attended her first-ever Rose Leaf Ragtime Club meeting—at least the first one at which I saw her.

As I reported in the November 2001 issue of Something Doing, Nan was busy at that time researching and writing a history of ragtime in Detroit to coincide with that city's 300th anniversary. Nan's "Uncle Charlie" Daniels had settled in Detroit for a spell in the early 1900s when he worked for music publisher Jerome Remick. Among the pieces Nan played at that meeting that I really enjoyed was Detroiter Harry P. Guy's "Pearl of the Harem."

I might not be entirely correct, but to my recollection the next time Nan came to Rose Leaf was in November 2004. After that meeting, she began spending more time in Southern California to handle her father's estate, which meant we saw more and more of her at Rose Leaf Club meetings. Her primary home, however, was in Menlo Park.

At any rate, when Nan played for us in 2004, I was struck by the depth of her expression. Much more personal than I recalled from her 2001 appearance. In fact, I was inspired to share my personal thoughts about her performance in my meeting review:

At the keyboard, she knows where she's been, where she's going and how to get there. She's in total control and her touch is simply marvelous. At many moments during her solos, I felt my heart wrenching.

When a musician's performance becomes something beyond the mechanics of fingers depressing keys, when you no longer hear the playing but instead feel the story and understand the musical language, you know you're witnessing something special. Nan Bostick brings out that special something when she plays ragtime.

After the meeting review was published, I received a personal letter from Nan and some valued keepsakes as tokens of her gratitude. She spoke honestly and deeply about the challenges she'd faced as far as gaining acceptance from the ragtime inner circle in northern California, and what my words meant to her. She felt encouraged and confident. And more certain than ever that she truly did have something to say, musically speaking.

I am surely not trying to take credit, but after that appearance, Nan Bostick began to take off on a national scale—as a player, presenter, raconteur, historian, writer, composer and ragtime evangelist.

I was not ready for her to leave us. I lost a cherished friend and fellow musician for whom I had, and still have, enormous respect.

Rose Leaf Ragtime Club members past and present should know that Nan Bostick held a special place in her heart for us. I firmly believe that the unconditional, enthusiastic support we showed her as she was coming into her own gave her a supercharge of motivation and momentum that infused her talent and fueled her mission to the finish line.

In turn, we will never forget what she gave us.