Born near Linden, Cass County, Texas, November 24, 1868
Died in New York City, New York, April 1, 1917
Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer, the opera Treemonisha
Scott Joplin, an African-American composer, was a Texan! His family moved to Texarkana, Texas when he was about seven years old. At that young age, Joplin demonstrated extraordinary talent for music and was encouraged by his parents to pursue music as a career. Even at a young age, Joplin was a proficient banjo player and was already beginning to play the piano. By the time he was eleven years old, he was learning about the details of musical harmony and style. As a young teenager, he worked as a dance hall musician. Using his talents as a pianist, he played the piano throughout the midwestern United States and settled in St. Louis, Missouri in about 1890.
While in St. Louis, Joplin perfected the music style now known as Ragtime: a unique blend of European classical styles combined with African-American harmony and rhythm. In 1893, Joplin played the piano in sports arenas in Chicago, Illinois but moved back to Missouri the following year. Soon he formed an eight member group names the “Texas Medley Quartette” and traveled with the group as far east as New York.
In the late 1890’s, Joplin worked at the Maple Leaf Club in Missouri. In 1899 he composed and published his best know composition, the Maple Leaf Rag. A few years later he composed The Entertainer, another well-known piece. Over the next fifteen years, his total number of compositions reached sixty! In 1911, Scott Joplin moved to New York City, where he devoted his talent and energy to the production of his only operatic work, Treemonisha, the first grand opera composed by an African-American. At the time, however, it was not well received.
Although his music was popular and he received modest royalties during his lifetime, he did not receive recognition as a serious composer for more than fifty years after his death. In 1973, his composition, The Entertainer, was featured in the motion picture, The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The music score won an Academy Award! Three years later, Joplin’s opera Treemonisha won the Pulitzer Prize. After suffering from bad health, Scott Joplin died on April 1, 1917 in Manhattan State Hospital, New York.