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The Music Quest: Answer 3
About This Daily Classroom Special
The Music Quest  focuses on discovering the wonders of our musical universe. Visit it for a musical question—a description and hints about a mystery composer, musician, instrument or musical excerpt.
The Music Quest was written  by former Teachers Network Web Mentor Kristi Thomas, a teacher at  William F. Halley Elementary School Fairfax Station, Virginia.

Answer 3

Scott Joplin was one of the greatest piano players and composers in American history. Celebrated as the "Father of Ragtime," Joplin will forever be remembered as one of the most important developers of "ragtime" - a style of music which emerged in America in the early 1890's.

Scott Joplin was born in 1868 into a poor family in East Texas. He taught himself to play the piano in the homes of the people his mother cleaned for. News of his extraordinary talent spread through the community and Joplin eventually studied piano with several teachers near his home. As a teenager, Joplin began to perform as a pianist in the low-life districts that provided the chief employment for black musicians. Bars and churches were the only places he was allowed to play.

The music that Joplin heard as he traveled and performed was called "ragtime," a rapidly growing form of black music that had evolved from the old slave songs. Ragtime combined African traditions and folk songs with syncopated rhythms and complicated bass lines.

Although Joplin had hoped for a career as a classical pianist, it was his skill as a ragtime piano performer and composer that brought him recognition. In 1894, he moved to Sedalia, Missouri where he opened a piano studio. He published the "Maple Leaf Rag" and "Original Rags" in 1899. Both publications were an immediate success.

Joplin's next project was an opera entitled "Treemonisha," a composition which contained all kinds of black music - spirituals, ragtime, folksongs and the blues. Joplin spent much of the rest of his life trying to get this work published, but sadly his popularity commercial success was not enough to succeed in the world of opera. This failure left Joplin's spirit permanently broken.

Joplin's music has undergone a huge revival in the past twenty-five years. Many of his compositions including "The Entertainer" were featured in the film The Sting (1973) and "Treemonisha" was staged with great success in 1975 by the Houston Grand Opera.


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