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As a member of the first generation of African Americans who were born just after the end of slavery, Scott Joplin faced a world of unique challenges. His musical family scraped out a living by sharecropping and cleaning houses—but Scott was exceptionally gifted, and his mother made sure he got piano lessons. Classically trained, he spent several years playing in churches and saloons. While for a time he wanted to compose classical music, he was drawn to ragtime, an early form of jazz that featured African folk tunes and syncopated rhythms. After his first composition, "Maple Leaf Rag," was published in 1899, Scott Joplin was able to keep ragtime popular for the next two decades. In fact, ragtime influences can be heard in later forms of music, such as jazz, blues, and even rock and roll. Scott Joplin, the Father of Ragtime, whose compositions cut across geography, race, and class, was truly a Master of Music.