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Essay Example on Scott Joplin

4 pages
959 words
Middlebury College
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Scott Joplin (November 1868-April 1917) was a Black-American artist born in Texas as a second born in a family of eight (Berlin, 1994). His parents, Giles Joplin and Florence Givens were labourers who worked in the railways to sustain their children and the couple loved music. In Joplins lifetime, he was known for his contribution to the ragtime music where he composed a total of 44 ragtime pieces all of which were his original compositions. Eventually, he was tagged the king of ragtime, a title that suggests that he was a professional in the field. From that background information, an analysis of Scotts life would inform many upcoming artists of what it takes to be a star.

Much of Joplins success is as a result of his early life which played a role in the direction of his career. He, fortunately, was born into a musical family in the North East of Texas. The family majorly worked on the railway, but still, their love for music was outstanding (Ryerson, 1973). His father was known for his artistic skills with the violin in his Carolina home, while his mother not only sang but also played the banjo (Ryerson, 1973). It is from his family that he got his first music lessons; in fact, he had acquired the skills of playing a piano by his seventh birthday being that his parent worked in a white mans house (Ryerson, 1973; Berlin, 1994). Inasmuch as his family status would not allow him to attend some highly qualified musical institutions, he was fortunate enough to get the attention of local music teachers who guided his journey (Ryerson, 1973). Indeed, Joplin was exposed to music at an early age.

It is also remarkable that the artist was aggressive. At his Texarkana home, he managed to form a vocal quartet where he taught the mandolin and the guitar to interested learners (Ryerson, 1973). Later on, when he was playing an itinerant music, he left his home and the laboring job to travel around South America with the aim of advancing his expertise (Ryerson, 1973). It is worth noting that the tour exposed him to the world and through it, Joplin began identifying himself better (Ryerson, 1973). In 1893, he realized his skills and enthusiasm in ragtime music (Berlin, 1994). In his bid to continue this genre, he doubled his efforts, and by 1897, had made it a national crave. Surely, Joplin was an aggressive character.

Evident about the artist is that he would never be at his comfort zone. For instance, he moved to Missouri in the year 1894 despite the fact that he already had a band by 1893 (Ryerson, 1973; Berlin, 1994). At this time he was already an advanced music teacher. His love for rag was still evident as he took up some of his time to train some future ragtime composers. After establishing himself well enough in Sedalia, he ventured into music publishing (Ryerson, 1973). His first publication was the famous Maple Leaf Rag in 1899 which steered his fame (Berlin, 1994). The piece was quite influential, and thus, was able to sell to up to over one million copies (Berlin, 1994). Unquestionably, the artist would never sit at his comfort zone; he would always advance.

Inasmuch as Joplin never attained such level of success with any of his later recordings, Maple Leaf Rag provided a stable source of income for some time until later when he started experiencing financial constraints. In 1903, he reported having the score to his first opera confiscated (Berlin, 1994). At this time Joplin had moved to Louis, where he often performed to the community. Despite such encounters, it is worth noting that he did not give up and continued composing, and recording. In 1907, the famous composer moved to the city of New York in a quest of finding a producer for his new opera, Treemonisha (Berlin, 1994). However, things did not follow suit as he had hoped; he failed to not only find a publisher but also impress with his kind of music (Ryerson, 1973). That is, Maple Leaf Rag was the most successful of all his compositions.

Though situations frustrated Joplin, he did not give up, not even during his last days. According to Ryerson (1973), his failure was due to his shift from commercial music to art music; the field that was not favorable to African-Americans. While still in New York City, Joplin with the aid of his wife, managed to publish Magnetic Rag in 1914 (Berlin, 1994). The move was successful, but it was at a time when Joplins health was not at its best (Berlin, 1994). His struggle with syphilis was getting intense, and time was no longer on his side. Together with his friends, he lay more efforts to complete his final artwork. He was then admitted to the Manhattan State Mental Institution, where he died following the insanity syphilis infection had caused him (Berlin, 1994). In other words, Joplin never stopped struggling despite the challenges he met.

Joplins story shows success based on hard work and determination. His story, unveils his struggles in the music scene and how he never gave up despite all the challenges. The most intriguing virtue the composer possessed was his bravery. He fearlessly attempted to cope up in the art music sector, which received little or no appreciations when performed by Africans. Apart from that, he also was quite hardworking, and even at his lowest point of sickness, he put all his efforts to complete his orchestration. Joplin is indeed an aspiration to many up-coming musicians. His life provides all the needed motivation for any person who would wish to venture in the industry. Undoubtedly, he is worth acknowledgment in the music industry.


Berlin, E. (1994). Joplin Biography. Retrieved November 22, 2017, from, B. (1973). The best of Scott Joplin: a collection of original ragtime piano compositions. New York: C. Hansen Music & Books.

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