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Scott Hayden

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Scott Hayden


Scott Hayden (March 31, 1882, Sedalia, Mo. — September 16, 1915, Chicago) was an African-American composer of ragtime music. Scott Hayden's story is one of the unfortunately common ones of great potential only scantly realized. He was one of the few classic rag composers actually born in the storied "cradle of ragtime" where the genre was informally launched, Sedalia, Missouri. The son of Marion Hayden and Julia (Johnican) Hayden, Scott was the sixth of seven children. His paternal grandmother, Littie Hayden, was born in Africa. Scott was fully schooled up through graduation from Lincoln High School, which he attended with another future collaborator of Scott Joplin, Arthur Marshall.

There was a family connection of sorts between the Hayden and Scott Joplin, since Joplin's first wife, Belle Hayden, had been Scott Hayden's sister-in-law. Scott was 17 or 18 when he made the acquaintance of Joplin, who ended up as a tutor and mentor for piano ragtime for both of the youngsters. Hayden married Nora Wright and lived with the Joplins in St. Louis. Although Hayden had already written one unpublished rag (Pear Blossoms, which was later completed by ragtime performer and promoter Bob Darch), it was Joplin who was able to take the young musician's skill as a pianist and divert it into compositions. Together they collaborated on four rags, which are still among the more memorable pieces in the Joplin catalog. Scott Joplin and Scott Hayden penned the Sunflower Slow Drag in 1901. This is a brass band arrangement of a piano original performed in 1994 by the United States Marine Corps Band, as well as Something Doing, Felicity Rag, Kismet Rag.

Scott Hayden married Nora Wright on April 17, 1902,and with his new bride followed the Joplins to St. Louis where they lodged together in the same home. It is likely in this environment that the final three Joplin/Hayden collaborations took shape, although two would not be published for many years. Around 1903, Nora died while giving birth to Hayden's daughter. Since there are no known Scott Hayden compositions written past this point, it may be surmised that her death had a serious impact on Scott, and his life started to deteriorate from this point on. The 1911 and 1913 releases from publisher John Stark composed in conjunction with Joplin had likely been submitted by 1903, and were simply released during a time when Stark needed some new Joplin material in his catalog as Joplin had been submitting his newer material elsewhere.

Hayden left the Joplin residence for Chicago where many other ragtime figures were heading for its burgeoning music scene. It is reported that Scott was a very adept pianist, so that he did not make it in Chicago may have been a matter of timing, as the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the 1904 World's Fair, briefly became the center of ragtime shortly after he moved away from there.

A Scott Hayden with identical parental and age demographics is listed in Chicago in 1910 as a baker (possibly a second job in addition to performance). There was another marriage in the interim, as he wed Missouri-born Maggie Collins on May 28, 1910, the second marriage for both of them. On the marriage certificate they are both 28 years of age. In the 1910 Census Scott and Maggie are shown as having been married for at least two years, so had likely been cohabiting as a couple since 1908. This is also the only black Scott Hayden in Chicago in that Federal Census record, further bolstering the case for credibility of this find. Hayden married once again on August 12, 1914, this time to Mrs. Jeanette E. (Wilkins) Cook, also previously married.

Scott eventually found work as an elevator operator in the Cook County Hospital in Chicago and remained in this position for much of the last few years of his short life. That life ended in pulmonary tuberculosis after a six-month illness at the age of thirty-three. His body was sent back to Sedalia for burial.

No post-St. Louis compositions have been found, suggesting such possibilities as depression or frustration about his life, or the lack of influence of the more grounded senior composer that Joplin had on him. Still, the four surviving joint works and his solo effort display great vitality and originality, with an intricate understanding of syncopation, development, and enjoyment in music.

Works for Winds

None discovered thus far.