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Scott Joplin:
Black Composers of Classical Music

Music by composers with all kinds of hyphens to their African heritage: African-French, French-Cuban, African-English, and African-American.

Music heard in this episode:
Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Violin Concerto
Joseph White: Violin Concerto
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Hiawatha
Fela Sowande: African Suite
William Grant Still: Afro-American Symphony
Adolphus Hailstork: Symphony No. 1
James Kimo Williams: Fanfare for Life
James P. Johnson: Charleston
Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag

Other shows about Scott Joplin:
About Scott Joplin
Ragtime Music
Classical Music and the Movies

Download this month's activity sheet

About Scott Joplin
1/1/1867 - 4/1/1917
Born in America

Today, birthdays are very carefully recorded, but no one knows for sure exactly when Scott Joplin was born. According to the United States census taken in July of 1870, Scott Joplin was two years old. And no one is sure where Joplin was born, either -- it was probably in northeast Texas.

Scott Joplin's father was born into slavery in North Carolina; his mother was a freeborn woman from Kentucky. Both his parents were musical. When his parents separated, Scott's mother supported the family by cleaning houses, and he was allowed to use the piano in one of those houses. He taught himself to play.

As a teenager, Joplin started traveling. In Missouri, he played piano in saloons; for the 1893 World's Fair, he headed to Chicago, and played cornet in a band. After spending some time in college, Joplin moved on to St. Louis, the hotbed of ragtime music. Eventually, he wound up in New York City.

Scott Joplin wrote some songs and stage works, but he's best known as one of the greatest composers of piano rags. In 1976 -- almost 60 years after Scott Joplin died -- his opera Treemonisha was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

See other composers born in America


This Week's Quiz:

1. The Chevalier de Saint-Georges was famous for his music and what sport?






2.Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is most famous for a piece of music inspired by what poet?

Alfred Tennyson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Emily Dickinson

Robert Frost

3. Who is the Dean of Afro- American composers?

William Grant Still

Scott Joplin

Adolphus Hailstork

Fela Sowande

Eubie Blake


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