Who Is Scott Joplin?
He’s the King of Ragtime!
Scott Joplin is an African American composer and pianist partially responsible for beginning a new era of music. Maybe you’ve heard his famous piece, released in 1899: Maple Leaf Rag. This piece and many others began Ragtime. Ragtime was a new style of music with lots of syncopation (emphasis of the off-beats). It had big energy and was fun to dance to. It would later spark the beginning of swing music, which evolved into jazz.
Joplin began playing piano on his own when he was young. His father, formerly a slave, moved his family from the farm he had worked on to a city in Texas. Here, a white family his mother worked for let him play their piano, and he began teaching himself. He later studied with a German pianist who, after seeing his talent, offered him free lessons. With the classical training he got, he learned how to put his ideas into written music.
A Landmark Musician
Scott Joplin was able to make enough money to save up to publish his songs as a first generation, freed African American at the turn of the century. How amazing! He worked for some time as a gigging musician, playing solo or with bands in the South and Chicago. Once he had enough, he worked with publishing companies to publish over 40 piano ragtime pieces, and even a ragtime ballet! Scott Joplin and many other similar composers of his time created a spark that projected music in to the future.