Scott Joplin and the Ragtime Music Page


One of the most unique styles of music in America was piano based; jazz influenced styled known as ragtime music. The predominantly piano rag style was made famous in the Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer from the hit movie “The Sting”. Out of all the performers in the early 1900’s the most famous was known as King of the Ragtime Music – Scott Joplin.

Scott Joplin was born in Texarkana, Texas in 1867. Joplin’s mother and father split when he was young, but his mother realized young Scott had musical ability and worked to provide piano lessons for him. During his younger years, Joplin impressed his music teacher, who agreed to teach him for no charge. As a young man, Joplin learned all areas of music including classical music, folk music and opera music. During his years in Texarkana, Joplin also began to play in front of community audiences who began to appreciate his talent.

During the late 1880’s Joplin gave up his work in Texarkana and began to embark on a career as a traveling musician. During his travels, Joplin began to find work as a musician and also found time to study music at George R. Smith College, which was one of the first colleges for Negroes.

In 1894, Joplin moved to Missouri and soon began working in the Maple Leaf Club in Sedalia, Missouri and other all Negro clubs. Shortly after he began writing music which he performed in the clubs. This type of music was piano based and jazz influenced, which became the starting point for ragtime music. In 1899, Joplin wrote one of his most famous pieces, and one of the most memorable ragtime compositions of all, the Maple Leaf Rag. This musical piece became an immediate hit and was ragtime’s first success.

In 1900, Joplin moved to St Louis. Missouri and had another major hit with The Entertainer. During his time in St Louis he also wrote the piece March Majestic as well as the play, The Ragtime Dance. Also, his early appreciation for opera was the foundation for writing an opera called A Guest of Honor.

In 1907, Joplin was looking to advance his music career, and moved to New York City. While in New York he was looking for financial backing to produce an opera. However, he was not able to secure financing and instead had to finance a smaller version of the opera Treemonisha. Unfortunately, while in New York City he became ill and on April 1, 1917 died after suffering from bouts of mental illness.

Scott Joplin was one of the most influential musicians in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and created a new style of music that endured for many decades. Even today, Joplin’s ragtime music has been featured in several movies, shows and recordings. To learn more about the musical genius of Scott Joplin and the ragtime musical style, we have collected several resources for your reading pleasure: