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
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.