Composer’s Corner: The Story of Scott Joplin

Composer’s Corner: The Story of Scott Joplin

He’s been called the “King of Ragtime”, and he’s the best-known composer in the history of the genre.

But who was Scott Joplin, exactly?

In this series, we’re going to take a trip back in time to discover some of the world’s best composers. We’ll learn who they were and how they shaped music as we know it today.

This is Scott’s story.


Scott Joplin (he had no middle name, to my knowledge).


A pianist, teacher, author, and composer of many piano rags, two operas, and a ragtime ballet.

Joplin’s rags were so popular during his lifetime that he was given the nickname “The King of Ragtime”.


About 1868 (exact date unknown) – April 1, 1917.

Scott Joplin was a composer during the Modern period of music history and a contemporary of Erik Satie, Lili Boulanger, Charles Ives, and May Frances Aufderheide


Raised in Texas, Scott eventually moved to Sedalia, Missouri and then St. Louis.

He spent the last decade of his life in New York City.

Why It Matters

Scott Joplin is the most well-known composer in the history of ragtime music.

He was also one of the first African-American composers to gain national recognition in the post-Civil War era.

His work paved the way for future black composers and musicians.

This is especially true for the genres of ragtime, jazz, and blues which were created and shaped by traditional African American music styles.

Other Interesting Facts

Scott Joplin performed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

He is said to have had perfect pitch.

He disliked ragtime at a rushed tempo, saying, “It is never right to play ragtime fast.” He wrote “Not fast” in the inscription of his original score of The Entertainer.

Scott’s three most famous rags, The Entertainer, The Chrysanthemum, and Maple Leaf Rag, are still popular today. In fact, learning The Entertainer is a rite of passage for many piano students!

He published a book of ragtime theory toward the end of his life.

Some of Scott’s music was featured in the hit 1973 film The Sting. After the film’s release, there was a renewed public interest in his work.

Below is a recording of Maple Leaf Rag performed by Joplin himself:

And that is the story of ragtime’s king, Scott Joplin. What do you think of him? Leave a comment below!

Other Composers Featured in This Series:

Antonio Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, George F. Handel, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara Schumann, Erik Satie, Lili Boulanger, Dmitri Shostakovich

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