Scott Joplin, though called the "Father of Ragtime,"" was never acknowledged as the serious composer that he really was during his lifetime. Nevertheless, Joplin succeeded in earning this title and his music was part of the evolution of jazz.
Joplin was born on November 24, 1868, in northeastern Texas to Florence and Giles Joplin. His parents encouraged musical interest in their children; Florence played the banjo and sang, and Giles played the violin. Joplin was the second eldest of his four brothers. In 1880, the family was living in Texarkana, which straddled the border between Texas and Arkansas. .
At the age of seven, Joplin started taking piano lessons in a neighbor's house in return for his mother's labor. His German teacher, Julius Weiss, was a private tutor to the children in Texarkana in the late 1870s. Weiss gave Joplin free lessons and exposure to European art music. He had a profound influence on young Joplin, helping shape his ambitions to excel both culturally and musically. Because of Weiss, a constant theme in Joplin's life was a profound dedication to education, both as a student and a teacher. .
Joplin guided many young pianists in town; they looked upon him as a hero. Through life, Joplin's intelligence could have been judged by what he had to say. He equated manner of speech with education; through the use of cultivated speech patterns, Joplin hoped to avoid the stereotypes of an African American dialect. .
Musically, Joplin had certain talent from the start. He had perfect pitch and the ability to remember tunes that he had heard years before. At a young age, he was already combining these retained tunes with elements to form new compositions. .
Joplin began his musical career at the age of 16, forming the Texas Medley Quartette with his brother and two other boys. Scott also performed on the piano in dance halls and taught guitar and mandolin. When he was twenty, Joplin left Texarkana to seek his musical fortune as an itinerant musician.