Mimi Blais is a French Canadian pianist, composer, and comedian with a special interest in ragtime music and witty showmanship. She has been called the "Female Victor Borge," the "Celine Dion of the Keyboard," and the "French Canadian Liberace," but she is most proud to be thought of as the "Queen of Ragtime."
Early life and career
Blais started playing the piano at age 7 and gave her first concert at the age of 9. She studied at the Québec Conservatory of Music and at McGill University, but she quickly broadened her interests to include folk, jazz, modern, blues, tango, and ragtime. She has played ragtime concerts across Canada, the United States, and worldwide.
She has recorded ten albums of piano music by varied composers, including Scott Joplin, Tom Turpin, Eubie Blake, Zez Confrey, Jean-Baptiste Lafrenière, André Gagnon, Cecil Macklin, Joseph Lamb, George Gershwin, Dave Brubeck, Claude Debussy, and herself. These albums include: Ragtime (1992), Geraldine (1993), Taxi (1998), Old Rags - New Rags (2000), Made in Quebec (2002, with participation of violinist Sophie Rivard), Sunday Morning (2004), Mimi Blais Plays André Gagnon (ADISQ-2004), Once Upon a Rag Time (ADISQ-2005, with participation of pianist John Petley), Life Is A Dream (2006), which features classical music and some of Mimi's newest compositions (non-ragtime) and Silence (2008).
In 2005-06, Mimi received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts for research on Canadian ragtime; a music folio and CDs are expected to result from that research.
Blais loves the theatrical, and often uses costumes to present or invent characters, making her piano concerts more visual and animated. Sometimes, when she steps out on stage, the audience may not even be sure that it's actually her.
Blais has written two one-woman shows where she demonstrates her talents: "Once Upon A Time, Ragtime," which shows the importance of ragtime music in the evolution of the American culture, and "An Afternoon With Jean-Baptiste Lafrenière."
Blais has said that ragtime is the most important music in America. "Ragtime is the trunk of a big tree!"