Scott Joplin

1868 - 1917

American

Biography

Scott Joplin was an American composer and pianist. Dubbed the "King of Ragtime," he wrote over 100 original ragtime pieces, a ragtime ballet, and two operas.

Joplin grew up in a musical family of railway laborers in Texarkana, Arkansas, and developed his own musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. During the late 1880s, he left his job as a railroad laborer and traveled the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World's Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.

Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri, in 1894 and earned a living as a piano teacher. There he taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden, and Brun Campbell. Publication of his "Maple Leaf Rag" in 1899 brought him fame. It also brought Joplin a steady income, though he did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems. The score to his first opera, A Guest of Honor, was confiscated in 1903 with his belongings for non-payment of bills, and is now considered lost. His second opera, Treemonisha, was never fully staged during his life.

In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to American music.

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