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Scott Joplin was November 24, 1867 or 1868 in Northeast Texas into a musical family of railway laborers and developed his musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. Growing up in Texarkana, he formed a vocal quartet, and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s he left his job as a laborer with the railroad, and travelled around the Southern states as an itinerant musician.

By 1893 he was in Chicago, Illinois for the World’s Fair and played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897. Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri in 1894, earned a living as a piano teacher and taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. He began publishing music in 1895, and publication of his “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899 brought him fame. This piece had a profound influence on subsequent writers of ragtime and brought the composer a steady income for life. Though he never reached this level of success again, he would frequently have financial problems, causing him to lose a be forever lost, the score to his first opera A Guest of Honor for non-payment of bills.

Joplin moved to St. Louis in 1901, continued composing and publishing music, and regularly performed in the St. Louis community. In 1907, a move to New York City had him searching for a producer for a new opera, Treemonisha, which, went beyond the limitations of his then famous music and was not well received when partially staged in 1915.

In 1916 he descended into dementia as a result of syphilis. He was admitted to a mental institution in January 1917, and died there three months later on April 1st at the age of 49. Scott Joplin death is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format, and in the next several years it evolved with other styles into stride, jazz and eventually big band swing. His music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. Several of his compositions including The Entertainer were featured in the Academy Award winning 1973 movie The Sting, and his opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full to wide acclaim in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize. During his lifetime her composed 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet and two operas.


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