This week you will be listening to the music of Scott Joplin, the person responsible for the creation of the musical style known as “ragtime.” Ragtime is a blend of the music brought by the black slaves from Africa with the European forms such as the polka and march.
Scott Joplin was born in 1867/68 (exact date unknown) in Texas and died in 1917 in New York. His father was a freed slave and his mother a free-born African-American. It was evident from an early time that Scott had exceptional musical ability and his mother did all in her power to provide musical training for him. While the family was living in Texarkana the eleven-year old Scott was able to study piano with Julius-Weiss a German-Jewish music professor who had immigrated to the United States from Germany. Professor Weiss, seeing the financial difficulties facing the family, taught Scott free of charge for the next five years. Joplin never forget his kindness and when he was earning a steady income would send his old teacher money.
Joplin was involved in a number of musical groups that traveled around the country, but opportunities were few for African-American musicians at that time. It was at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 that Joplin got his first big break with the publication of the Maple Leaf Rag. By 1897, the popularity of rag-time music had so spread to be described as a national craze in American cities. Joplin also wrote two operas one which was destroyed and the second one, Treemonisha, was not fully produced until 1975. It was in 1974 that the movie, The Sting, was created which featured the music of Scott Joplin and in 1976 Scott Joplin was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Jazz historian, Floyd Levin wrote this about Scott Joplin in describing his death in 1917, “those few who realized his greatness bowed their heads in sorrow. This was the passing of the king of all ragtime writers, the man who gave America a genuine native music.”
Maple Leaf Rag written by Scott Joplin and played by Scott Joplin
Bethena a Concert Waltz by Scott Joplin played by Massimiliano Damerini