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Maple Leaf Rag Day 2023

Happy Maple Leaf Rag Day everyone!

As a tribute to Scott Joplin’s unhonored request to have it played at his funeral on 1 April 1917, today is the day to play the Maple Leaf Rag. Play it any way you can: crank it up on a music player, or on YouTube, or if you’re a musician, perform it (or learn it!) on your instrument of choice. There are many renditions of the M.L.R. provided in past posts here at, but new versions are always springing up — even 124  years after the M.L.R. was published in 1899!


On the historical significance of the Scott Joplin’s music: “Many people don’t realize just how this artist’s work still influences the social and musical landscapes of America a century after his death,” explains the Polyphonic channel in the video below which takes a closer look at “The Incredible Story of America’s First Pop Star.

Here’s a well-executed, traditional performance of the Maple Leaf Rag by Richard Dowling performed in his “Complete Piano Works of Scott Joplin” released 1 April 2017 — the 100th anniversary of SJ’s passing.

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Keep in touch with the King Of Ragtime’s social media channels on Facebook & Twitter.

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Maple Leaf Rag Day 2021

It’s time to jam the Maple Leaf Rag in tribute to Scott Joplin’s unhonored request to have it played at his funeral on 1 April 1917. Maple Leaf Rag day celebrates the wild success of ragtime that Scott Joplin helped cultivate back at the turn of the 20th century (early 1900’s). It was arguably America’s first popular music genre with nationwide appeal, thanks to the proliferation of affordable printed music, as well as the genius of Scott Joplin who aspired to elevate ragtime as a respected musical style, despite attempts to label it as trashy, unwholesome, and even dangerous.

But exactly what is ragtime, musically speaking? Here is a short musical explanation by Davide Di Bello showing how syncopation works to create that characteristic ragtime sound, accentuating the beat, and “inducing the listener to move to the music.”

Ragtime lead to jazz as musicians embellished and improvised on it, such as Jelly Roll Morton in his New Orleans jazz band-styled transformation of the Maple Leaf Rag from a 1938 Library of Congress recording:

And you don’t need a piano to play ragtime, as Bob Evans illustrates with a fine guitar rendition of the Maple Leaf Rag:

Whether you can perform it yourself on your instrument of choice, or listen to others play it, be sure to crank up the Maple Leaf Rag today, April 1st — or any other day you want! — to acknowledge the historical significance of the piece, and the energy & talent of its great African American composer, Scott Joplin.

To show the spirit of Scott Joplin that ragtime is alive and well in the 21st century, here is a highly-viewed Maple Leaf Rag light show by Toms Mucenieks:

Image Credit: The “Scott Joplin 1911, The King of Ragtime Composers” portrait featured in this post came from NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, via the following Black History Month post: Slices of the Tenderloin #3: Scott Joplin.

However you enjoy it, whether by playing it yourself on your instrument of choice or listening to others perform it, be sure to crank up the Maple Leaf Rag today (April 1st) and anytime you want — appreciating its historic significance and the energy & talent of its African American composer, Scott Joplin.d

Maple Leaf Rag Day 2018

On this Easter Sunday of April 1st, 2018, celebration of “the quintessential ragtime piece written by that great master Scott Joplin” continues.

Terry Waldo provides a nice historical review of Ragtime and early Jazz where he observes that the Maple Leaf Rag “has continued to this day to be the quintessential rag”. A student of the great Eubie Blake (a Joplin contemporary), Terry plays a flowing, Eubie-inflected rendition of the M.L.R., as well as the Charleston Rag, and discusses the finer points of syncopation and how “to rag” a tune:

Ragification continues with Jonny May in an interview with Robert Estrin covering the historical development of ragtime. Jonny, who served for many years as the main  ragtime player at Disneyland, notes that the M.L.R. was the most requested ragtime song at Disneyland:

Additional history of Ragtime is covered by Allysia of PianoTV who notes a number of precursors of Ragtime including banjo playing, cakewalks, and British Isles dances (“jigs”):

Happy Maple Leaf Rag day!

Vive la Ragtime ♫ ♪

Maple Leaf Rag Day 2017

1 April 2017 marks 100 years to the day of Scott Joplin’s passing. Americans across the country honored the occasion in a tribute to the great composer of the “Maple Leaf Rag” whose wish to have this piece played at his funeral was not honored 100 years ago.

Richard Dowling performed all-Joplin concerts nationwide throughout 2017 & 2018 highlighted by the first public performance in history of The Complete Piano Works of Scott Joplin in Carnegie Hall on April 1, 2017, exactly 100 years to the day that Joplin died in New York.


Not many composers are publicly celebrated in such a high-profile fashion by professional musicians a century after their passing as Scott Joplin was. It speaks to the love and respect for the musical genre he catapulted to worldwide acclaim at the turn of the 20th century — Ragtime.

Here’s Richard performing excerpts of the Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer during the annual Scott Joplin Concert held outdoors at St. Michael’s Cemetery where Joplin is buried:

and an earlier performance by Mr. Dowling of the complete Maple Leaf Rag accompanied by orchestra:

Maple Leaf Rag Day 2015

Time to jam the “Maple Leaf Rag” in tribute to Scott Joplin who wanted it played at his funeral on this day in 1917, though it never was, as explained in our 2012 post when we started this Maple Leaf Rag Day tradition.

This year’s featured performers are Tom Brier and Mimi Blais. Here’s Tom playing the Maple Leaf Rag in A, G, B, and accepting a challenge to play it as a waltz in B:

In “Three Pianos on Fire,” Tom Brier is joined by Patrick Aranda and Frederick Hodges at the Sutter Creek Ragtime festival in 2009, where they all join together to play the Maple Leaf Rag at a blazing speed (as many players do, despite the composer’s wishes to not play ragtime too fast…).

Next up, Mimi Blais (a.k.a. Queen of Ragtime) does a medley of Scott Joplin compositions in an Amsterdam performance in 2014, finishing with a Mozart-esque rendition of the Maple Leaf Rag dubbed “Maple Leaf Ragadeus” (starting at 5:35 in the following video):

For longer version of her Scott Joplin medley that includes additional numbers, see this video of Mimi’s performance from 2008.

So cheers to Scott Joplin, King of Ragtime composers, and a hearty Maple Leaf Rag Day cheer to all who appreciate his enduring musical contribution!

Vive la Ragtime! 🙂

Maple Leaf Rag Day 2014

The tradition continues this year as we honor Scott Joplin’s unfulfilled wish to have the “Maple Leaf Rag” played at his funeral. Read this post from 2012  which explains the story behind this blog. Play it if you can, listen to others playing if you can’t!

In last year’s post, all of the featured performances of the MLR were done by men. So this year we’re putting the women in the spotlight.

We start off with Sue Keller‘s version (“you know you wandered into D♭…”):

Next we feature Stephanie Trick doing her “Maple Leaf Stride” in 2009. Scott Joplin meets Fats Waller:  

Going way back to 1959, here’s Jo Ann Castle on the Lawrence Welk show clearly having the most fun of anyone who ever played the Maple Leaf Rag:  

Happy Maple Leaf Rag to everyone 🙂

Maple Leaf Rag Day 2013

Continuing the tradition from last year when we began marking the anniversary of Scott Joplin’s funeral on 1 April 1917 with a playing of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, everyone is invited to play this piece on their instrument of choice, or just listen to it, this April 1st.

It was Scott Joplin’s wish to have the MLR played at his funeral in 1917, but it never was. It not only launched his career as a composer, but it also propelled Ragtime into the international musical spotlight in the late 1890s and set the stage for the rise of jazz and other forms of popular music. Ragtime was actually America’s first popular musical genre to achieve widespread attention (and that attention was not always nice — many in the musical establishment at the time feared that Ragtime would lead to the destruction of civilized society; those predictions have proven wrong… so far!)

So let’s do our best to honor the Maple Leaf Rag on April 1st. If you play it already, perform it as if you were personally asked by Scott Joplin to perform it at his funeral. And if you can’t play it, try learning it on whatever instrument you prefer (humming, whistling, spoons & cheeks are fine, too :)). If you’re not a musician, give it a listen on this day.

Own It

One of the things that Ragtime sparked was improvisation, as different performers would take a piece like the MLR and personalize it with their own embellishments. Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll Morton and many other pianists of the ragtime and early jazz era enjoyed riffing on the MLR and other of Joplin’s pieces.

Here’s an awesome, stride-tinged contemporary example by the great Adam Swanson doing his own version of the Maple Leaf Rag in 2012:

Martin Spitznagel takes the MLR on a jazzy romp here:

Cory Hall does a perfect straight-up MLR rendition here:

Did you play it or otherwise enjoy the MLR on April 1st? Do you know of different versions played on different instruments? Leave us a note in the comments. If you’ve got a video of yourself performing it or another favorite version of it, include a link in your comments.

Play the Maple Leaf Rag for Scott Joplin

Maple Leaf Rag sheet music coverScott Joplin died on 1 April 1917 and his request to have the Maple Leaf Rag played at his funeral was not honored.

In 1950 the widow [Lottie Joplin] still regretted that she had refused the request her husband had so often made for the Maple Leaf Rag to be played at his funeral. — from Rudi Blesh’s introduction to Scott Joplin: Complete Piano Works (“Scott Joplin: Black-American Classicist,” 27 July 1971)

So time has come to make amends and honor Scott’s request in a manner appropriate to the internet age.

Here’s the plan: on April 1, play the Maple Leaf Rag on your instrument(s) of choice. Band performances are fine, too. If you don’t play any instrument, fire up your favorite Maple Leaf Rag mp3. Crank it.

Musicians: You are strongly encouraged to share your performance with the world, so record yourself (or a friend or your band), upload your recording to your favorite video or audio sharing website, and post a link to it in the comments below. You can also tweet it to @King_Of_Ragtime or share it on the King Of Ragtime’s Facebook wall. Or keep your performance private, if you prefer, but feel free to share your thoughts.

First edition cover of the Maple Leaf RagStart practicing your Maple Leaf, get it down and be ready to jam on 1 April. Play it straight as-written, or add your own interpretation. It’s a challenging piece, so don’t worry about playing it perfectly — this isn’t a contest; energy and spirit are much more important than perfection (but don’t play it too fast ;)).

Remember, it’s important to perform the piece live on 1 April. Play as if Scott Joplin had personally invited you to perform it at his funeral. Let’s all give him the funeral he wanted!

April 1, 2012 will mark the 95th anniversary of Scott Joplin’s passing and this will be the first year of his belated funeral Maple Leaf Rag performance. If there’s interest, maybe we’ll do something special for the 100th year anniversary in 2017.

Hello Ragtime Friend!

Welcome to KingOfRagtiPortrait of Scott Joplin, — a new fansite dedicated to the spirit of Scott Joplin, king of Ragtime writers.  Learn more on the about page.