For visiting Ragtime pianist Jim Radloff, an accident several years ago could have meant the end of his playing career. Instead, out of the loss of three fingers, he found a way to inspire others and continue his love of music.
“My wife told me I retired three fingers,” Radloff said with a laugh Thursday morning at the Liberty Center Association for the Arts. “She also told me I talk too much, but I don’t know about that either.”
One thing that is certain is Radloff is a performer who gives back. In 2009, he received the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation Award for outstanding achievement in American Ragtime.
His biography states that he founded the Eau Claire Ragtime Festival in 2000, which has donated $99,650 to local nonprofits. That is the beginning to his generosity.
For the past nine years, Radloff has been playing for hospitalized veterans across the country.
“I go into the hospitals and I see people who have sacrificed so much for others,” Radloff said. “Some of them have some horrible injuries.
“I look at myself, and my head isn’t bandaged, I have two arms, and two legs, and I’m not bionic. So only I only have seven fingers,” Radloff added.
Part of his positive outlook has led Radloff to write a new ragtime musical score, “The Seven Finger Rag,” which he is scheduled to perform during the Festival.
“I have given copies of it to all the performers, and it’s available at the ragtime store,” Radloff said. “All of the people here have helped me through this in some way and I am so grateful to them.
“I look at life in terms of, ‘I know what I can and can’t do,’” Radloff said. “I just always try to keep concentrating on the positive.”