Scott Joplin International Centennial Celebration in Texarkana

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Editor’s note: The event featured in this article occurred in 2017, but you’ll find other great happenings on our Events page.

Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a famous composer noted for his Ragtime music. Joplin grew up in Texarkana and in honor of this and to mark the 100 year mark of his passing, The Scott Joplin International Centennial Celebration is taking place March 31 -April 2 at the new Regional Music Heritage Center in Texarkana.

“Most folks are familiar with his work whether they know it or not through  The Sting movie,” said Dave Mallette, Executive Director of the Regional Music Heritage Center.  Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer are heard pretty commonly. Joplin learned the African-American “barrelhouse,” boogie-woogie, and gospel traditions in his neighborhood and the infamous “Swampoodle” district of Texarkana.  But he also learned classic European composition and music theory from Julius Weiss, a German music teacher in Texarkana who heard him play and was so impressed he taught him free. Joplin combined these two traditions with the “ragged” piano of the time to create Ragtime as we know it today.  Ragtime was for nearly 20 years the most popular music and dance in the U.S. and one of the few popular forms to have rules, which Joplin developed.”

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The celebration will be a chance to hear the music of Joplin and the various forms it influenced. On the agenda is a preview party on Friday, March 31 at the Silvermoon at 217 W Broad where you can see a lineup that includes acts such as the Texarkana Trio, who will be there from Belgium, Netherlands and international jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro.

The following day, April 1, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. there will be a street sign dedication to the composer at the Scott Joplin Mural, which is at the corner of Main and Third Streets across from the Historic Perot Theatre. The Texarkana Museum Systems will also have a series of videos on Joplin playing continuously starting at 1 p.m. at the Texarkana Museum of Regional History at 219 North State Line Avenue.

The main Centennial event starts that day during a performance at 7 p.m. at the Historic Perot Theatre at 219 Main Street. Entertainment includes performances by Texarkana’s Carol Miles, who studied classical voice in Paris, France and traveled extensively in Europe with the Glamour Jazz troupe. She now calls Texarkana home and sings with the Texarkana Chorale along with her trio, Three of a Kind. She will perform an arrangement with original lyrics written for the Centennial event. Also on the lineup is ragtime pianist and composer Reginald Robinson, internationally-acclaimed jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro, who is a Texarkana native, and the Texarkana Jazz Orchestra.

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There will also be performances on Sunday, April 2 at the Perot Theatre starting at 2 p.m.  The Texarkana Trio will play and also a an Elvis impersonator will be there too since the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium in Texarkana was one of the first venues he performed at.

Following the show, the public is invited to the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium’s “Walk of Fame” to dedicate plaques honoring two Texarkana musicians: Pat Cupp and the late jazz master, Jay Franks. Free auditorium tours and photos with “Elvis” and The Texarkana Trio will also be available.  At 7:30 p.m., there will also be a dedication of a sculpture at the Lindsay Railroad Museum at 200 E. Broad Street.

After the Centennial event, plans are to continue to honor Joplin and music in the town.“The weekend will become an annual “Scott Joplin International Music Festival” starting next year,” said Mallette. “We intend to add other events as well, like a “CowBilly” festival celebrating country and western, and the music of the south since these two meet on the state line in Texarkana. There will also be a jazz festival each year.”

Of note, tickets are needed for all of the performances taking place during the Centennial. For more information, you can call the Regional Music Heritage Center at 832-498-3830 or purchase them online at exarkanarmhc.org.  The Regional Music Heritage Center is located at 205 East 38th Street.