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We are winding down on the February playlist. On Friday I will have a round-up of the pieces I didn’t get to + links for listening.
Here’s what we’ve done so far:
- Wedding Day at Troldhaugen // Grieg
- Sleeping Beauty // Tchaikovsky
- Nessun Dorma // Puccini
- Salut d’Amour // Elgar
- Romeo and Juliet // Tchaikovsky
- Lincoln Portrait // Copland
To close out February, I have a great piece your kids are going to love…
Western classical music history unfolding the way it did, there is a woeful lack of documented African-American composers to include in your Black History Month studies. One significant exception is Scott Joplin.
Scott Joplin was the son of a slave. He had little formal training, relying only on a few lessons from a generous neighbor who gave him access to a piano. He had few resources, connections, or opportunities – at least in the traditional sense.
And yet Scott Joplin changed the course of American music.
Joplin pioneered a new, distinctly American sound called Ragtime. A combination of classical music and black folk music, Ragtime became America’s first genuinely native music — music birthed and cultivated only in America. Consider the significance: the genesis of all documented music had taken place across the Atlantic – until Scott Joplin.
In 1899 Joplin published the Maple Leaf Rag, which would become his most profitable piece of music. Though the piece was highly successful, it alone could not pay the bills. Joplin struggled financially most of his life. At one point all of his possessions were seized because he could not pay his rent. Legend says those possessions included a completed opera, now forever lost.
Scott Joplin was ahead of his time, but the joyous quality of his music does not reflect the sadness of his life. He died at the age of 48, deeply depressed, thinking of himself as a failure, both musically and financially.
Joplin’s music was almost entirely forgotten until the 1970’s when The Entertainer was featured in the movie The Sting, starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. It has since become a part of American culture once again (and a piano lesson staple for children everywhere).
The music is fun, and your kids will love it. But there is also much to be learned from Joplin’s character: endless perseverance in the face of hardship and unbridled creativity when all the odds were stacked against him.
It’s a great American story worth telling.
And for fun…here is the Maple Leaf Rag as well!