The Music of Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin is known to many as the “Father of Rag.” It was his compositions that helped made rag become popular. Many people believe that Joplin was born on November 24, 1868, however, there really is no record of his actual birthday. A census was taken when he was two years old. People still celebrate November 24 as his birthday. He began playing instruments at a young age, and he started traveling and performing as a young adult. Joplin played in a wide variety of places including fairs and clubs in several different states. He contracted syphilis and died on April 1, 1917 in a hospital.

After playing in a wide variety of places, Joplin finally settled in 1890 in St. Louis. Four years later he moved to Sedalia, MO and toured with Texas Medley Quartette. During this time he wrote on of his first compositions, The Great Crush Collision. During the 1890’s, he wrote the Maple Leaf Rag after working for a club called the Maple Leaf Club. The Entertainer followed it a few years later. He wrote about 60 compositions his whole life. Joplin was even the first African American to compose an opera. The opera, Treemonisha, however, was unsuccessful at the time. Joplin’s music wasn’t taken seriously for more than 50 years after he passed away. In 1976, Treemonisha finally won the Pulitzer Prize.

One of the most influential people in Joplin’s life was his mother. She had worked in a house where he learned to play the piano. She also encouraged him. He made her the hero of Treemonisha. Another person that was influential to his life was his first wife, Belle, and a young woman named Freddie. He eventually married Freddie after his first wife died. Unfortunately, Freddie died 10 weeks after marriage. Joplin also pulled inspiration from many of the different places he went and the things that he saw. For example, The Great Crush Collision was written about a train crash in 1896 near Waco, TX.

Joplin is still known today as the “Father of Ragtime Music”. His works are known by many and used as background music to many movies for today. This is where many people will recognize his works. While his birthday is still unknown, it is celebrated on November24. There is even a music festival in his honor called the Scott Joplin Festival that is hosted in Sedalia. It is considered an honor to be invited to play at the Scott Joplin Festival.

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