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  • Meghan Parsons

Students and faculty make the pianos on campus sing



Piano projects around the world

Amherst- Pinned to Owen Henry’s music professor’s door hung a poster, with the words “Just do this at UMass” written on it in pen.. That poster pictured the piano project, “Pianos for Play”, students started at the University of Maryland. “That really spoke to me, I thought ‘we could make it happen’”, said Henry. “I thought it was a great idea”.

“Pianos for Play” pioneered Henry’s vision of “Free Keys” on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. Five pianos, each decorated by student artists, appeared in outdoor locations throughout the University of Maryland campus. These types of projects bring a combination of art and music to students. “Pianos for Play” welcomes anyone to play the pianos from 9 a.m. to sunset. After that, they get covered and locked to protect the pianos from any weather damage.

These types of piano projects pop up on more than just college campuses. Street pianos have become common in major cities across the country, including Boston, New York and Los Angeles.

“Play Me, I’m Yours” is another piano project that began globally in 2008 by a British artist, Luke Jerram. In 2010, Jerram brought the project to New York. The 60 pianos the city received got placed in public parks, street corners and plazas. Jerram compares these pianos to a blank canvas, there for anyone to explore and engage with. Visit, http://streetpianos.com/nyc2010/ to find out exactly where each of these Big Apple pianos are located. The website encourages street players to post pictures and write about their experiences with the pianos.

“Play Me, I’m Yours” expands far beyond New York City. It’s reached an estimated 10 million people worldwide. Globally, almost 2,000 street pianos popped up in over 55 cities across the globe. Streets, public parks, markets and train stations are a little more musical, thanks to Jerram. To see a complete list of locations of all the pianos places globally, visit http://www.streetpianos.com/.

And now organizers of, “Play Me, I’m Yours” plan to be the first of its kind to take on Japan. In March of 2018, pianos will be placed in Tokyo.

Owen, along with other piano project founders, said the piano is one of the most accessible instruments. “Everyone is connected to a piano somehow”, explained Henry. Not only is it an instrument people can touch and access, Henry said they also make great canvases for art.

Josh Dodds, a UMass Amherst alumni who works in the student union, said, “This is great to me, I wish they had done it a long time ago, they didn’t have anything like this when I was here.” Junior Alycia Longuemare has the opportunity that Dodds did not. “I can’t play any instruments.”, said Longuemare. “But every time I hear someone really good on the piano, I want to learn how to play.”

“We are going to keep repairing them, replace them, add some new ones, the possibilities are endless.” Henry smiled as he said, “They are here indefinitely which makes me really happy.”