Scott Joplin's Biography

Scott Joplin was born on November 14,1868. He was born near Marshal, Texas, but spent most of his youth in Texarkana, Missouri. He grew up with his father, Giles Joplin, his mother Florence, and five brothers and sisters. Scott learned his musical abilities from his father and mother. His father played the violin for the plantation owners, and his mother played the banjo and sang.

Early on in Scott's life, Florence was separated from her husband, and she was left with the arduous task of raising six children. She would work peoples homes doing house work just to make ends meet.

Scott showed his musical skill when he was a small child going to church. He would play the tunes he heard in the church and improvise on them. His mother would take him to different places where he would practice playing the piano, until she finally earned enough money to buy a piano of their own.

Though it wasn't long before Scott started to pursue a musical career. He would play at different bars, saloons, church functions, etc. in the area. He also, once he was a teenager, formed a group called the Texas-Medley Quartet. He toured the midwest with his group, and built his musical reputation substantialy.

In 1893 when he was about 25 years old, he went to a gathering of musicians in Chicago at the World's Columbian Exposition. He came back with enough confidence to conduct and publish some of his own music.

His first few compositions were not the rave, but when he settled in Sedalia, Missouri, he really began to make good ragtime. In Sedalia, he attended the Smith College for Negroes. This gave him an opportunity to build upon his musical talent.

When Scott composed his "Maple Leaf Rag" in 1898, he had a hard time finding a publisher, until he found a music store owned by a man named John Stark. They met at a small club called the Maple Leaf Club where John Stark heard Scott playing. He then payed Scott $50 for the song he was playing, which was called afterwords the "Maple Leaf Rag".

Scott Joplin continued to publish his compositions through John Stark, and in 1900 Stark moved his base of operations to St. Louis, Missouri. In 1902 Stark published Joplin's "Peacharine Rag", "The Easy Winners, "Elite Syncopations, and "The Entertainer". Joplin himself also put on a ragtime opera by the name of A Guest of Honor, through the Scott Joplin Ragtime Opera Company. This though was never published.

Scott, while in Sedalia, married a young woman by the name of Belle Hayden, but it did not work out. She did not like the idea of Scott having a music carrer, and Scott Joplin was very permiscuous with women. What really destroyed the marriage was the loss of their child. By 1906 Scott Joplin went into a deep depression and almost quit composing altogether.

By 1907 Joplin moved to New York and married a young woman named Lottie Stokes. She was very supportive of Scott's musical career, and he was ready to start a new life.

During the time between 1907 and 1909, Joplin composed about fifteen works, but was unable to play them due to the syphilis he contracted during his love life, and his health was deteriorating badly.

From 1907 to his death, Scott's opera Treemonisha was his undying obsession. He was unable to get it performed, John Stark would not publish it, and they split in 1909. In 1915 Joplin managed to pull together a few people without a orchestra or costumes, they pulled off the opera to a small black Harlem audience. This made his schizophrenia and mental instability caused by his syphilis worse, Lottie had him commited to th Manhattan State Hospital on Ward Island in 1916.

Earlier that year he made a piano roll of the "Maple Leaf Rag", the playing is very irregular and jerky at times and gives you a view on how tortured his mind really was. Joplin died April 1, 1917, he was 48 years old.