A Newspaper Clipping

New York Times, November 22nd, 1958.

ST. LOUIS, MO.-Today Scott Joplin, one of America's most celebrated composers and educators, died after a short illness just four days short of his ninetieth birthday.

Born of obscure parents in Texarkana, Texas in 1868, this man rose to become one of the seminal figures in American music. His first published piece was an unprecedented hit called "Maple Leaf Rag" published in 1899 and from there he moved from strength to strength. In those first five years of the century he laid the groundwork for what would become known as the "Missouri school" in American music. In those early years he produced his first ballet, his first opera (the wildly successful "A Guest of Honor"), and two dozen piano and band pieces including the famed "Euphonic sounds" which would become the basis of the second movement of his first symphony in 1915.

After spending the first fifteen years of the century in Sedalia and St. Louis composing and teaching piano, he was invited to New York City by a Broadway agent who had offered him a lucrative contract to write the music for a Broadway show called "Afro-America." The show was written, and unlike his somewhat dull second opera, "Treemonisha", "Afro- America" electrified all who saw and heard it. This show remains one of the great American classics, and its message of racial unity had a profound effect on the world. Unfortunately for Broadway, Mr. Joplin wrote only one more show, "The World Turned Upside Down!", before he got an offer he could not refuse. While in New York and Chicago Jazz had taken hold with a vengeance, the sound in his native Missouri remained the closely metered rhythms of Ragtime. Scott Joplin was the living symbol of the power of this unique art form and for this reason he was offered in 1918 the presidency of the newly formed "Missouri Academy of Music." a post he held for the next ten years when he was succeeded by Dr. Ferdinand Morton.

Joplin was much more at home teaching and composing than he was amongst the hustle and bustle of New York and it was in those years between 1919 and 1929 that he produced the music for which he would be most remembered. I need only mention the second symphony, the Sousa collaborations, the opera "John Brown," the third symphony, the African Intermezzos and the triumphant fourth symphony 'Twentieth Century Rag." With these works America realized that Joplin was a composer equal to any ever produced by Europe. In 1930 Joplin set out on a sabbatical to be spent in West Africa to find the roots of his beloved Ragtime. All he hoped and more was to be found there. He stayed up until the beginning of the second world war making recordings and composing vast orchestral works for western orchestra enriched by the sounds of Koras, M'Biras, marimbas and a wild variety of drums. He is in fact the man who is solely responsible for these instruments being part of the modern symphony orchestra. During the war he returned to the academy to teach and work along with a great variety of African musicians whose presence would have a great influence. Up until his death he continued to work on piano and chamber works as well as one more symphony, the eleventh.

Just last year audiences marveled at his quintet "Gabon Rag." and as he leaves this life we know from his students that many works remain unpublished.

He leaves his wife, Lottie Joplin, and a son, Charles Scott Joplin, as well as four grandchildren.