Composer Scott Joplin honored in Texarkana


Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a Pulitzer Prize winning composer that grew up in Texarkana and made his mark in the world via Ragtime music. In town, a large mural at 311 Main Street depicts his life and accomplishments. “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.”

This year is the 100 year mark of Joplin’s passing, and as a means to continue to honor him and music in town, a new film called Scott Joplin-Hometown Hero-Texarkana USA has been developed.

“The feature video was made in an effort to explore the early years of Joplin and bridge the gap between conflicting theories regarding his place of birth per local historians and living family members,” said Carol Collins-Miles, director of the Scott Joplin Support Group, which is at the helm of the project. “These opinions are shown through the interviews in the video.  This is an evolving subject, though we do hope viewers will have better material with which to draw a conclusion and the inspiration to further research all aspects of our worldwide recognized King of Ragtime. Another goal of the project is to show the influence Joplin and other local musicals have had on our area.”

The one-hour movie was filmed locally in Linden, Texas and Texarkana, Texas and Arkansas. Screenings are being held in all of these locations and in Texarkana the movie will be shown on Friday November 24 at 7 p.m. at the Lindsey Railroad Museum’s Old Town Saloon at 202 E. Broad Street and on November 25 at 1 p.m. at the Museum of Regional History located at Pine Street and State Line Avenue. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased daily at each event location and at the door the day of event. Monday November 27 would have been Joplin’s 149th birthday.

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