Joplin: Scott: c1868 – 1 April 1917

By | January 26, 2021


Black & White portrait of Scott Joplin in his thirties

On the turn of the twentieth Scott Joplin was known as the ‘King of Ragtime’. He was born in Texas to a musical family who were railway labourers. His father Giles played the violin and his mother Florence sang and played the banjo.

He went on to write over one hundred ragtime pieces.


As a boy, he was taught the piano locally and went on to form a vocal quartet whilst teaching the mandolin and guitar. He accompanied his family as a railway labourer. However, in the late 1880’s he chose to head to the American south as a travelling musician. He soon became aware that work for black pianists was limited to churches and brothels. In 1894 he went to Missouri and became a piano teacher teaching some of the future ragtime players.

In 1895 he started publishing music and received fame in 1899 when he published Maple Leaf Rag followed by the Entertainer. This brought along with it financial stability, however, this was fairly short-lived. The score of Joplin’s first opera (A Guest of Honor), was taken in 1903 along with his belongings for non-payment of bills.

Joplin’s presence at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 lead in part to the national ragtime craze of 1897.

In 1908 Joplin published ‘The School of Ragtime: Six Exercises for Piano‘ to assist students in the complexities of ragtime.

When Joplin moved to New York City in 1911 he published his second opera ‘Treemonisha’ at his own expense. He became obsessive which resulted in a nervous breakdown. Sadly it was never fully staged during his lifetime. It took sixty-one years, in 1972 that ‘Treemonisha’ was staged and well-received on Broadway.

Final Years & Revival

In 1916 Joplin contracted syphilis which lead to dementia and eventually being institutionalised. He died in 1917 aged just forty-eight.

Joplin marked the end to Ragtime and the start of mainstream music. In the 1970’s there was a revival of his music as a result of the million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin and then his music appeared in the film ‘The Sting’.

Further Reading & Musical Downloads

On we have sixty arrangements of Scott Joplin Sheet Music for you to download.

For further information take a look at Wikipedia and Britannica.