THE PARAGON RAGTIME ORCHESTRA (PRO) is the world’s only year-round, professional ensemble specializing in the authentic recreation of “America’s Original Music” – the sounds of early Broadway, “silent” movies, and vintage ballroom dancing. PRO came into being as the result of Rick Benjamin's 1985 discovery of thousands of historic orchestra scores of the legendary Victor recording company. This extraordinary find sparked Mr. Benjamin’s formation of his “Paragon Ragtime Orchestra” at The Juilliard School the following year. In 1988 Mr. Benjamin and the Orchestra made its formal debut at Alice Tully Hall - the first concert ever presented at Lincoln Center by such an ensemble. Since then PRO has toured extensively across forty-eight States and several countries overseas. These travels have taken the Orchestra to more than seven hundred performing arts centers, including the Ravinia Festival, the Smithsonian Institution, Chautauqua, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, the Brucknerhaus (Austria), the American Dance Festival, and in New York at the 92nd Street Y and City Center. In 1999, PRO's music inspired master choreographer Paul Taylor's new dance, "Oh, You Kid!," which was premiered at The Kennedy Center jointly by the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the Paragon and has since toured the world. In 2003 the Orchestra premiered Rick Benjamin’s reconstruction of Scott Joplin’s 1911 opera "Treemonisha" at the Stern Grove Festival in a performance acclaimed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “vigorous and utterly charming.” More recently, PRO had the honor of appearing twice as special guests of the Minnesota Orchestra in Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis.
In addition to its world-wide concert hall, university, and festival appearances, PRO has acquired a considerable following both here and abroad through its radio programs on New York ‘s station WQXR, National Public Radio, the BBC, the WWFM Classical Network, and the Voice of America. Since 1989 more than 600,000,000 people have enjoyed the Orchestra’s recorded atmosphere music on "Main Street, U.S.A." at Disneyland, Disney World, and Disneyland Paris, and in 1992 PRO proudly served as "Ambassador of Goodwill" for the United States at the World's Fair in Seville, Spain. Over the last twenty-six years the Orchestra has been heard on the soundtracks of several feature films and television programs, including productions for PBS and Turner Classic Movies. The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra's widely praised discography includes fourteen albums and two DVD sets of historic Hollywood films. In 2012 Mr. Benjamin and PRO received two important recording industry awards – BBC Music’s “Opera of the Month,” and Gramophone’s prestigious “Editor’s Choice." (website: www.paragonragtime.com)
Conductor RICK BENJAMIN has built a career upon the discovery and performance of American music from the 19th and early 20th Centuries. He is the founder and director of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, which uses his extraordinary 14,000-title collection of historic theater and dance orchestra music (c. 1870-1925) as the basis of its repertoire. In addition to his work with Paragon, Mr. Benjamin maintains active careers as a pianist, arranger, and tubist. As a conductor he has led many orchestras, including the National Orchestra of Ireland (Dublin), the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Aalborg and Aarhus Symfoniorkesters of Denmark, the Olympia Symphony (Washington State), the National Orchestra of Iceland, the Erie Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony, and others. Mr. Benjamin is also a leading researcher of music for silent films; he has unearthed the original orchestral accompaniments to many great motion pictures of the 1910s and ‘20s, and he has conducted for more than 600 silent film screenings – a current world record. His articles on popular music appear in several publications, and lecture tours have taken him to over a hundred colleges and universities throughout North America. Mr. Benjamin's multi-year reconstruction of the Scott Joplin opera "Treemonisha" was premiered to great acclaim in 2003 at San Francisco’s Stern Grove Festival, has since been performed nationally and internationally, and was recorded in 2011 under Mr. Benjamin’s baton for New World Records. He is continuing work on his books and "The American Theater Orchestra," "Encyclopedia of Arrangers & Orchestrators," and "Treemonisha and the Traditions of African-American Theater: 1870-1920." Rick Benjamin is a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and was educated at The Juilliard School in New York City. (website: www.rickbenjamin.com)