Winifred Atwell: a women in ragtime

History of Ragtime

Ragtime emerged during the mid-1890s in Mississippi. It quickly gained popularity throughout the nation. Ragtime is defined as a genre of musical composition for the piano. It was heavily influenced by African American folk music and minstrel-show songs. As well as, early jazz. Most ragtime compositions follow a fast, buoyant melody. One of the most influential Ragtime composers “Scott Joplin” became famous due to his original and top-selling pieces. Scott Joplin wrote over 100 original ragtime pieces. He helped establish the framework for ragtime and also helped influence multiple ragtime composers.

Winifred Atwell

Winifred Atwell was one of the most influential ragtime artists of her generation. She was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad. She began her journey in the 1940s when she migrated to America. She began studying piano with Alexander Borovsky and fine-tuned her proficiency in her craft. Inevitably, she moved to London where she had the opportunity to study at the Royal Academy of Music. She became the first female pianist to achieve such a high honor. In the meantime, she began playing at London clubs and casinos. This enabled her to get signed onto a recording label, Decca Records. She dazzled the music industry with hits “Britannia Rag,” “Coronation Rag,” and “If You Knew Susie.” She became one of the first black artists to make a Top Ten hit. She gained fame in Britain, Australia, and the United States.  Winifred Atwell became world re-known for her agile rags and her old ‘tack’ piano playing.


Winifred Atwell had numerous achievements. She was the first female pianist to be awarded the Academy’s highest grading for musicianship. She was the first black artist to gain Top Ten recognition. She was also the first black artist to sell more than a million records. Winifred Atwell influenced multiple generations of music and left a lasting mark on the music industry.


In conclusion, Winifred Atwell thrived in the music industry. She achieved monumental accomplishments such as being awarded the Academy’s highest grading for musicianship. She inspired the next generation of black pianists and continues to inspire others till this day. Additionally, her story of being an immigrant relates to many minorities living within the UK. Winifred Atwell will always remain an icon.

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