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Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival

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Last Updated: 01 December 2020

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Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival


Take from American Musician. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress. Scott Joplin's is the name perhaps most associated with Ragtime. Born sometime between the summer of 1867 and mid-January 1868, Joplin's career took him from a modest homestead on the Texas-Arkansas border to New York's Tin Pan Alley, New York City, where he would eventually try his luck with composers like young Irving Berlin. Although he continued composing until just before his death in April 1917, Joplin's greatest fame came from his years in the Midwest where he was acknowledged as king of Ragtime. Joplin enjoyed his greatest success in Sedalia, Missouri, where he studied music at George R. Smith College and played with several ensembles, among them Queen City Cornet Band. He opened his own piano studio and taught and encouraged other composers whose names eventually joined his in Ragtime history. These young talents include Arthur Marshall and Scott Hayden; Joplin collaborates with the former on Cakewalk swipesy and the latter on two-step sunflower Slow Drag. Joplin's musical activities in Sedalia bring him in contact with the source of Ragtime-piano playing in African-American social establishments. In fact, Joplin's engagements at the popular Maple Leaf Club inspired his most famous tune, Maple Leaf Rag. Joplin's life span unsettled post-Civil War years through much of World War I. His music embraces aspects of African-American popular heritage that thriven during that critical period; however, it also embraces elements from his formal musical training. For example, he found it perfectly reasonable to combine syncopated rhythms of Ragtime with larger structures and forms of art music genres such as ballet and opera. For example, form of Rag in Joplin's compositions was strict enough to be dubbed Classic, epithet that both he and John Stark, his major publisher, employ to market their sheet music. Not only do terms imply accepted structure, but it also helps Ragtime to migrate from its earthy origins to parlors of respectable middle class. Joplin's theories about Ragtime are stated eloquently in his self-publish School of Ragtime. Write in the style of art music treatise, School demonstrates how serious Joplin was about Ragtime-type of music that many in contemporary America condemn as frivolous. He warned that not all syncopate music that masquerades under the name of Ragtime was genuine. Only by giving each note its proper value and by scrupulously observing music's markings could a pianist achieve the correct effect. Above all, he caution, never play Ragtime fast at any time. Joplin Ragtime, as he term his style, would be destroyed by careless interpretation. Although he and his music were largely forgotten after his death, Ragtime revival of the 1970s brought Joplin renewed attention. In January 1972, his opera Treemonisha, which he had been unable to stage during his lifetime, premiered in Atlanta. When his 1902 Rag Entertainer became the cornerstone for the soundtrack of the 1973 film Sting, popularity of Ragtime soar.

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