In the music of Scott Joplin a deep understanding of classical music can be
heard. A deep understanding of the syncopations and parallel harmonies of
African-American music can also be heard. While the evolution of
"jazz" combined these two separate but different parts, Scott Joplin
brought both of these influences together in a way that very few individual
composers ever attempted.
According to one source Scott Joplin was born 11-24-1868 in Bowie County,
Texas near the town of Texarkana. Joplin was the most celebrated composer of the
piano genre known as "ragtime". Although his family was poor, his father
(a former slave) and mother saw that the young Joplin studied classical piano as
a child. In his late teens Joplin worked as a dance musician, and itinerant
pianist traveling throughout the Midwest.
In 1893 Joplin performed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1894 he
first arrived in Sedalia, Missouri. Sedalia was the home of the Williams
Brothers' saloon. Joplin spent the last of his teenage years entertaining the
patrons of the "private" club on the second floor of the saloon that
was named the "Maple Leaf Club". In 1895 he studied at the George R.
Smith College for Negroes. In that same year, with the help of a local Sedalia
merchant, he published his first composition, the song "Please Say You
In 1899 the Maple Leaf Club contributed it's name to Joplin's most
commercially successful composition the "Maple Leaf Rag" (it was the
first sheet of music to sell over a million copies). Other sentimental songs and
marches followed. His "Maple Leaf Rag" became the most popular piano
rag of the period, securing for Joplin a modest lifetime income from royalties
and the title "King of Ragtime." Around 1899 Joplin's first opera
"A Guest of Honor" (the first ragtime opera) was performed in St.
In 1907 Scott migrated to New York City. One of the major reasons that he
moved to New York was to find a publisher for his opera "Treemonisha".
Another good reason for Joplin to migrate to the "big apple" was that
it would be much easier for him to impress the right people with his skills as a
composer and thus find a comfortable income.
Altogether Joplin published some 60 compositions of which 41 are piano
"rags". The balance consists of songs, marches, a ballet, and two
operas: "A Guest Of Honor (c1899)" and "Treemonisha" (1911).
"Treemonihsa" was produced unsuccessfully in concert form in 1915 but
was revived successfully 57 years later. In 1911 Joplin suffered a nervous
breakdown that he never fully recovered from. In 1916 he was
"admitted" to a mental hospital that he would never leave.
Joplin died 4-1-1917, from "pneumonia". He most probably died from
complications brought on by the advancement of syphilis (which he was known to
In Scott's 49 years of life he was never acknowledged as the serious composer
that he really was. During his lifetime there were no opportunities for black
musicians to have their music heard by anyone in the "serious" musical
world. Even though his music was commercially successful, like everyone else in
"tin-pan alley" during his time, he was looked upon as just a
Recognition came posthumously, however, with the republication (1972) of his
music, a Pulitzer Prize (1976), and acclaim from both the popular and the
Here is a collection of "midi" files that Victoria borrowed
from the web.