From the African American Registry

Scott Joplin was born on this date in 1868. He was an African-American composer and pianist, one of the most important developers of ragtime music.

Born of a former slave and his free wife, Scott Joplin learned to play the piano as a child. In 1976, he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his special contribution to American music.

Born in Texarkana, TX, Joplin taught himself piano as a child, learning classical music from a German neighbor. In his teens he became an itinerant pianist in the low-life districts that provided the chief employment for black musicians. He settled in St. Louis in 1885. In 1893, he played at the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago, and in 1894 he moved to Sedalia, MO., where he published his “Original Rags” and “Maple Leaf Rag” and opened a teaching studio.

Scott Joplin moved to New York City in 1907 and four years later at his own expense, he published his ragtime opera “Treemonisha,” a work intended to go beyond ragtime to create an indigenous black American opera. Staged in a concert version in 1915, it failed with the audience, leaving the composer’s spirit permanently broken.

He died in 1917, not aware that eventually, his music would undergo a great revival after some of his compositions, including “The Entertainer,” were used as the background music in the film “The Sting” and “Treemonisha” was staged with great success in 1975 by the Houston Grand Opera.

Read more here.

Listen to the familiar Maple Leaf Rag and the more unusual Stoptime Rag

Listen to the Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin