"The Easy Winners"
by Scott Joplin
arr. Kenneth Abeling
Jennifer Nitchman, flute
Cally Banham, oboe
Tzuying Huang, clarinet
Andrew Cuneo, bassoon
Julie Thayer, horn
Alan Stewart, drums
Ragtime, with its off-kilter (“ragged”) rhythms, grew and flourished in Black communities in nineteenth century America, and would go on to influence larger popular culture as well as early jazz performers and composers. Scott Joplin, ragtime’s most famous figure, grew up on a small farm in Texas, and as a teenager toured the south and the Midwest, playing in saloons and brothels. He moved to St. Louis in 1901, where he would write dozens of rags, including perhaps his best-known work, “The Entertainer.” The composer and pianist would go on to compose more than 100 original pieces, a ballet, and two operas, earning his title as the “King of Ragtime.”
“The Easy Winners” of this rag’s title are the athletes who come out on top with seemingly little effort. One of Joplin’s most popular works, the piece was one of four of his songs recorded prior to 1940, and was published by Shattinger Music in 1901, a St. Louis company, the same year the composer arrived in the city.
Scott Joplin House State Historic Site is just a few blocks east of Powell Hall on Delmar. The composer lived in this home with his wife from 1901–1903, and it is his only known surviving residence. Thanks to Black activists in the 1970s, the building was saved from demolition and became Missouri’s first state historic site dedicated to African American heritage.
Special thanks to Scott Joplin House State Historic Site and Administrator Almetta Jordan.
Special thanks to the Centene Charitable Foundation, the Steward Family Foundation, and World Wide Technology for their support of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.