Scott Joplin Driving Tour in Texarkana

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Scott Joplin mural in Texarkana
Scott Joplin mural in Texarkana

Scott Joplin was born in 1868, or around this time as his exact date and place of birth is not known, near what would soon become Texarkana. The Pulitzer Prize winning composer grew up in the area and was known as the "Father of Ragtime Music". Ragtime has similarities to jazz in that they both were musical art forms born in America.

He attended the Orr School in Texarkana, which is located near the Texas/Arkansas state line. He became famous for The Entertainer, written in 1902, which was used in the 1973 Oscar winning movie The Sting, and for compositions like the Maple Leaf Rag. The Maple Leaf Rag was published in 1899 and is now known as one of the most famous pieces of ragtime music. 

Joplin learned the African-American barrelhouse and gospel traditions in his neighborhood and also learned classic European composition and music theory from Julius Weiss, a German music teacher in town. He combined these two traditions to create the ragtime music we are familiar with today. Overall, Joplin wrote over 40  ragtime pieces, a ragtime ballet, and two operas. For his opera Treemonisha he was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the late 1970s. 

A self-guided driving tour of the highlights of Joplin's lifetime has been created. Tour maps are available at the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce and the Texarkana Museums System office. And the tour narration can be found on the Main Street Texarkana website at mainstreettexarkana.org. Of note, if you do the tour, it is best to have two people so that one can serve as navigator while the other drives. 

The tour starts at the Scott Joplin Mural at 311 Main Street, which pays homage to the composer’s life and accomplishments and was updated recently by a local artist.On the tour are many sites that relate to Joplin’s life in Texarkana including the Orr School at 831 Laurel Street. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places but is currently vacant. 

Orr School in Texarkana

Hazel Street is on the tour and the 600 block of this street was home to Joplin’s family during his childhood. Some of the buildings on the tour are no longer standing, such as Ghio’s Second Opera House, a spot that Joplin performed at in town. The Beasley Music Store is on the tour and is one of the many businesses that has had a home in the current Booth-Rowe building, a building that has been around since the late 1880s. It is said that Joplin performed in the Beasley store during a visit to Texarkana before he passed in 1917.The tour ends at the official Texas Historical Marker for Scott Joplin, which was dedicated in the late 1970s and is located just behind the Chamber of Commerce building.

Scott Joplin historical marker

The Museum of Regional History in town also has an exhibit on Joplin which you can also visit in town.

Scott Joplin exhibit at Museum of Regional History in Texarkana

 For more information on musical heritage in the area, visit the Regional Music Heritage Center site on Facebook.