Happy birthday Scott Joplin!



Scott Joplin (c. 1867/1868—April 1, 1917) was an American ragtime musician and composer. During his career he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces as well as ballets and operas.

1a-028690Joplin was born in Linden, Texas to Giles Joplin and Florence Givens. His father was a former slave who became laborer for the railroads. His mother was born free and was a cleaner. Both of his parents played music, his father the violin and his mother the banjo. Joplin eventually learned to play the banjo and was allowed to take it with him while his mother cleaned. He also played the piano.

After his father left the family, Joplin became increasingly interested in music. He began to take lessons from Julius Weiss, a German-Jewish music professor who had immigrated to the United States. Weiss saw potential in Joplin so he gave him lessons for free. Their relationship became so formative for Joplin that later in his life, when he was wealthy, he sent money to Weiss, when he was in his old age. (Image source)

In the late 1880s, Joplin began to tour. It is documented that he performed in a minstrel troupe in 1891, and later near the grounds of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. During this period of his life, it is believed he often played in brothels, as they were one of the few places for steady work besides churches.

In 1894, Joplin found himself in Sedalia, Missouri. He performed at Sedalia's "Black 400" club and the "Maple Leaf Club."


After a trip to New York, two businessmen sponsored the publication of his compositions, "Please Say You Will" and "A Picture of her Face."

Eventually, he came to teach students Arthur Marshall, Brun Campbell, and Scott Hayden while he was in Sedalia. They all later became ragtime composers. (Image source)

Although many rags had been published by this time, Joplin's first published rag, "The Maple Leaf Rag" came in 1899. His contract for the publication stipulated that he receive a 1% royalty on the publication, which meant he had a small income for the rest of his life.

Some of Joplin's other rags include The Entertainer, March Majestic, and the short theatrical work The Ragtime Dance.

In 1901, Joplin founded an opera company and produced and opera titled A Guest of Honor.

One of his last major works was the opera Treemonisha, which received little notice.

Selected works:


Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 24 November 2014
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