Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman looks at a Texan who was born the son of a former slave but went on to become one of the most popular and influential songwriters in American history.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you.
And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Scott Joplin, often called the “father” of ragtime, was born near Linden, Texas, on Nov. 24, 1868. His father, a former slave, encouraged his son’s musical development. Joplin grew up listening to African-American spirituals, blues and minstrels, but he also loved marching band music. By age 11, he was taking piano lessons from a German immigrant named Julius Weiss, who gave the youngster a thorough training in classical composition and performance. Joplin soon began performing throughout Texas and the Midwest. Eventually, he moved to Missouri, where he quickly earned a reputation as a talented performer and songwriter. With such tunes as “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer,” Joplin became the most famous composer of the ragtime era. By helping to define and popularize the ragtime sound, Joplin played a crucial role in setting the stage for the emergence of jazz in the early 20th century.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll look at a bilingual singer-songwriter whose records have gone multi-platinum in the Asian market.