Scott Joplin

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  • Topic: Ragtime, Scott Joplin, Jazz
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  • Published : February 23, 2002
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Scott Joplin (1868-1917)

Scott Joplin, commonly known as the "King of Ragtime" music, was born on November 24, 1868, in Bowie County, Texas near Linden. Joplin came from a large musical family. His father, Giles Joplin was a musician who had fiddled dance music while serving as a slave at his master's parties. His mother, Florence Givens Joplin, born free and out of slavery, sang and played the banjo, and four of his brothers and sisters either sang or played strings.

Joplin's talent was revealed at an early age. Encouraged by his parent's, he became extremely proficient on the banjo and gained an interest for playing the piano. After Joplin's parents purchased a piano for the family, he taught himself how to play the instrument so well that his piano playing became remarkable. Joplin soon began playing for church and local social events. By age eleven, while under the teachings of a German music teacher named Juliuss Weiss, Joplin was learning the finer points of harmony and style. As a teenager, he played well enough to be employed as a dance musician.

In 1884, Joplin left home and traveled the Midwest for some time as an intinerant pianist playing in saloons and brothels. He settled in St. Louis a few years later and continued his studies. He found employment there in the city's prostitution district playing as a cafe pianist.

Joplin left St. Louis in 1893 and performed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He left there in 1894 and arrived in Sedalia, Missouri, where he spent the next year or so entertaining the patrons of a private club on the second floor of a saloon by the name of "Maple Leaf Club." In 1895, Joplin continued his studies at the George R. Smith College for negros where he soon published his first composition, the song Please Say You Will. From there, Joplin toured with an eight member Texas Medley Quartet across the country all the way up to Syracuse, New York. This Quartet disbanded in 1897 and...
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