Scott Joplin (between July 1867 and January 1868 – April 1, 1917) was an African-American composer and pianist, born near Texarkana, Texas, into the first post-slavery generation. He achieved fame for his unique ragtime compositions, and was dubbed the "King of Ragtime." During his brief career, he wrote forty-four original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the "Maple Leaf Rag", became ragtime's first and most influential hit, and remained so for a century.
He was "blessed with an amazing ability to improvise at the piano," writes opera historian Elise Kirk, and was able to enlarge his talents "with the music he heard around him," which was rich with the sounds of gospel hymns and spirituals, dance music, plantation songs, syncopated rhythms, blues, and choruses.:190 After he studied music with several local teachers, his talent was noticed by a German immigrant music teacher, Julius Weiss, who chose to give the 11-year-old boy lessons free of charge. He was taught music theory, keyboard technique, and an appreciation of various European music styles, such as folk and opera. As an adult, Joplin also studied at an all-black college in Sedalia, Missouri.
"He composed music unlike any ever before written," according to Joplin biographer Edward Berlin. Eventually, "the piano-playing public clamored for his music; newspapers and magazines proclaimed his genius; musicians examined his scores with open admiration.":3 Ragtime historian Susan Curtis noted that "when Joplin syncopated his way into the hearts of millions of Americans at the turn of the century, he helped revolutionize American music and culture."