Born in Oakdale, California in 1971, Tom Brier was exposed to ragtime in his earliest years when his parents purchased a player piano. He was all of four years old at the time.
Soon, he was picking out on the piano keyboard the ragtime tunes he'd heard off the piano rolls. His parents found him a music teacher when he was five, and very shortly, he was composing and notating his own piano pieces. By the age of 11, he had composed and written the scores to some two dozen rags.
His first "serious" ragtime piece was the "Pine Cone Rag" of 1982, when Brier was all of 11 years old. Three years later, he began attending gatherings of the Sacramento Ragtime Society. The 14-year-old prodigy amazed everyone within earshot with his articulate renderings of the ragtime classics, and with his own highly original piano compositions.
The hallmark of Brier's piano-playing style is an aggressive left hand that attacks the lower half of the piano keyboard in staccato, machine-gun-like octave passages. He alternates these voicings with a variety of other sounds: walking bass ("boogie"), single-note figures, and widely-spaced chords -- often both arpeggiated and unarpeggiated tenths.
Tom Brier performed at his first West Coast Ragtime Festival in 1989. He has been a headliner every year since, astounding onlookers with his machine-like precision, sensitive interpretations of more lyrical pieces, and nearly flawless sight-reading technique.
While pursuing his ragtime "education," Brier has also achieved a college education. He attended the California State University at Turlock, obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science in 1993.
Over the last few years, Brier has also begun to augment his collection of original pieces of ragtime sheet music, with a collection numbering over 1,000. And, since 1982, he has composed and printed complete, notated scores to over 100 original ragtime compositions. He has also collaborated with ragtime composers Eric Marchese, Neil Blaze, Gil Lieberknecht, and Kathi Backus.
Brier has also headlined at the annual ragtime festivals in Sutter Creek and Fullerton, Calif. He has been a regular performer at the "Ragtime Corner" sponsored by the Sacramento Ragtime Society each Memorial Day weekend at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. He has also appeared in Sedalia and Columbia, Missouri; Phoenix, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Vienna, Virginia (Washington, D.C. area).
To date, Brier has released five solo albums. The first, "Rising Star", features several Brier originals, several more contemporary ragtime compositions, and many obscure pieces from the vintage ragtime era. The second, "Generic", uses an electronic keyboard to emulate the sound of an entire ragtime band. "Pianola" features piano-roll-style arrangements of 21 vintage and contemporary rags and novelties. "Skeletons" uses an electronic keyboard to emulate the sound of a small ragtime combo of four or five pieces. "Rewind", the latest, resurrects seventeen obscurities from the vintage ragtime era.
Mr. Brier currently resides in Sacramento, where he works as a programmer/analyst for the county of Sacramento. When not tapping the computer keyboard at work, he's at home pounding on the piano keyboard, working up a new rag, transcribing handwritten scores or piano rolls, or busily engaged in a variety of music recording projects.