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Ragtime Originals

PETERBOROUGH UNITARIAN CHURCH: Pianist returns for holiday concert

Deborrah Wyndham makes her living playing the piano, but she describes herself as “a horrible student” when she took piano lessons from Joan Kunhardt in Hancock more than 20 years ago.

“I barely ever practiced,” Wyndham said by phone last week, as she was travelling from her home in southwest Michigan to Indianapolis, where she was booked for a holiday concert. “But she was such a great teacher — always so patient. And stern, but not in a bad way.”

Wyndham, who lived in Peterborough at the time, took classical lessons from Kunhardt for about five years. That was pretty much the extent of her formal training.

“I’ve taken occasional jazz lessons, but nothing really serious,” Wyndham said.

Yet now she performs regularly at music festivals, concert halls, libraries and schools throughout the Midwest. And on Saturday she’ll be returning to her hometown, for a concert at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church at 7 p.m. She’ll be playing both ragtime and stride style piano pieces, her own arrangements of jazz standards and some of her original compositions, which she describes as having “a classical sound, but very contemporary.”

“I’m going to do holiday pieces, a boogie woogie I wrote, some jazz and a lot of my contemporary stuff,” Wyndham said. “When I go to a concert, I like there to be some surprises. For my concerts, I don’t like to just do ragtime or just do jazz. I like to do a little of everything.”

The show will be Wyndham’s first in the Monadnock region, although she played at venues on the New Hampshire seacoast and in Boston for many years before moving to Michigan about three years ago.

“This will be my first time back in a while,” said Wyndham, whose parents, John and Carol Wyndham, live in Peterborough. “I’m coming for a visit and to do this concert.”

Wyndham has made a number of CDs, the most recent of which is a collection of her original solo piano compositions.

“I’ve never really played with a trio or a group. I’ve always been a soloist,” she said.

Wyndham attended Peterborough Elementary School, the Well School and Dublin School. When she graduated, she chose not to go on to college.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I’d grown up around music, and my mother suggested that I should try playing in restaurants and in assisted living homes. I gave it a try.”

She also landed jobs as a rehearsal accompanist for the Raylynmor Opera Company in Keene and the N.H. Dance Institute, which works with middle school students throughout the region.

“I had been an NHDI dancer at the Well,” Wyndham noted.

In her early 20s, Wyndham moved to the seacoast, where she got jobs as a pianist in restaurants, and she’s been a professional musician ever since, giving more than 3,000 performances.

“I’ve always managed to find places to play,” she said. “I started out in restaurants and hotels and did that for many years. For a long time, I had a steady restaurant job, two nights a week. I also played regularly at a church. At times, it’s been difficult. It’s off and on. That’s how it is for a lot of musicians.”

Wyndham said her move to the Midwest resulted in new opportunities.

“It’s more spread out here,” she said. “I can go east to Detroit, west to Chicago, south to Indianapolis. I’ve been able to play on TV and radio shows.”

Lately, Wyndham has been concentrating on formal concerts.

“I’ve been playing a lot of libraries, and music festivals and concert halls,” she said. Audiences have been especially receptive to her original pieces, she said, and she plans to play several of them at Saturday’s concert, which will be followed by a reception at the church.

The suggested donation for the concert is $15.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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