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TPS Quarterly

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Communicating Through Music: “Scott Joplin’s New Rag”


In this activity, students investigate “How do musicians communicate?” using the ragtime music of African American composer Scott Joplin as an example. They look closely at sheet music for "Scott Joplin’s New Rag,” and consider what this song would sound like if played. After listening to a historic sound recording of Joplin playing this song, students compare their understandings from observing sheet music and a sound recording.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • Observe details of a primary source
  • Express an idea based on observation of a primary source
  • Compare reading music to listening to music

Time Required

One 45-minute class period;

Recommended Grade Range



Arts & Culture; African American History


Arts and Communication


Standards & Benchmarks

Arts and Communication

Standard 4. (Role of Culture) Understands ways in which the human experience is transmitted and reflected in the arts and communication.

Standard 5. (Role of Culture) Knows a range of arts and communication works from various historical and cultural periods.

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