The Life of May Aufderheide

May Frances Aufderheide was a famous ragtime composer during the 19th century. She held a very high reputation for her ragtime compositions and to some would be known as the best female ragtime composer. She was born in Indianapolis, Indiana from John Henry Aufderheide, a violinist, and Lucy M. Deel. May took classical piano lessons from her aunt while a teenager but was always intruder by ragtime and popular music. Her parents invested in her music career and took her on a grand tour where she was able to explore her musical talents in Europe however, after the tour she finally decided her passion is with ragtime. May was also a member of the Indianapolis ragtime community that included Paul Pratt, Cecil Duane Crabb, J. Russel Robinson, Will B. Morrison, Julia Lee Niebergall, and Gladys Yelvington. in 1908 she had composed her own ragtime song and got it published. “Dusty Rag” was the first relevant rag to emerge from the Indiana- Ohio region. After her first composed song her career began to flourish and she made several songs such as “Buzzer Rag” and “The Thriller!”. In the 1920s May sadly stopped composing music due to complications with her alcoholic husband and adopted child. After their deaths, she suffered from several strokes, arthritis.  

Ragtime music is a form of musical composition from the piano. A ragtime composition is mainly composed of three or four contrasting sections or strains, each one being 16 to 32 measures in length. Ragtime emerged in the 18th century and flooded the music industry. Ragtime originated in St. Louis in African American communities. Once ragtime hit the mainstream it became one of the first genres of African Americans to hit the mainstream. As the popularity of ragtime excelled so did piano sales.

By the early 1900s ragtime dominated the music publishing industry. The popularity of ragtime boosted sale of pianos and topped the ranks of the recording industry.

May Frances had an huge impact on the music industry especially for women. her contributions inspired the next generation of artist and ragtime players. Ragtime was originally composed by African Americans and gave so much pride to black composers, musicians and listeners. Other popular ragtime artist consisted of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Eubie Blake and Joseph Lamb. Ragtime had an influx on jazz and the way artist played the piano. This form of music allowed African Americans to move forward in musical forms that have not been done before. 

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