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Scott Joplin was born on this date in 1868. He was a Black composer and pianist, one of the most important developers of ragtime music.
Born in Texarkana, TX, 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 Colombian Exposition in Chicago; in 1894, he moved to Sedalia, MO. He published his "Original Rags" and "Maple Leaf Rag" and opened a teaching studio there.
Joplin moved to New York City in 1907. Four years later, 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.
He died in 1917, not aware that eventually, his music would undergo a great revival after some of his compositions, including "The Entertainer," were used as the background music in the film "The Sting" and "Treemonisha" was staged with great success in 1975 by the Houston Grand Opera.
To Become a Musician or Singer
Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.