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Scott Joplin's Biography


Joplin, Scott (1868-1917), American composer and pianist, one of the most important developers of ragtime music. Born in Texarkana, Texas, Joplin taught himself piano as a child, learning classical music from a German neighbor. In his teens he became an itinerant pianist in the low-life districts that provided the chief employment for black musicians. He settled in St. Louis in 1885. In 1893 he played at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and in 1894 he moved to Sedalia, Missouri. There he published (1899) his “Original Rags” and “Maple Leaf Rag” and opened a teaching studio. He moved to New York City in 1907. In 1911, at his own expense, he published his ragtime opera Treemonisha, a work intended to go beyond ragtime to create an indigenous black American opera. Staged in a concert version in 1915, it failed with the audience, leaving the composer's spirit permanently broken. Joplin's music underwent a great revival after some of his compositions, including “The Entertainer” (1902), were used as the background music in the film The Sting (1973), and Treemonisha was staged with great success in 1975 by the Houston Grand Opera. Other Joplin compositions include “Peacherine Rag” (1901), “Palm Leaf Rag—A Slow Drag” (1903), “Euphonic Sounds” (1909), The School of Ragtime: Six Exercises for Piano (1909), a work that contains his explanation of ragtime style, and “Magnetic Rag” (1914).