Putting pianos into play requires a concerted effort to make these beautiful instruments accessible to aspiring musicians and music lovers. With over 100,000 used pianos in the United States alone sitting idle in homes, schools, churches and businesses, there is tremendous potential to “put pianos into play” in your community.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the benefits of putting pianos into play, examine challenges, provide tips for getting started, and highlight innovative examples and resources to inspire you. Our goal is to empower and equip you to take action to put more pianos into play for the enrichment and enjoyment of all. When played and appreciated, the piano can bring people together, stimulate minds, and elevate the human spirit. Let’s unlock the potential of the piano to better our lives and communities.
Benefits of Putting Pianos Into Play
Putting idle or neglected pianos into play can yield many positive benefits:
Promotes Music Education
By making pianos more accessible, aspiring musicians of all ages have opportunities to learn and practice the piano. Playing piano builds hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, music reading skills, and self-expression. Music education also enhances cognitive abilities.
Brings People Together
Pianos in community spaces can draw people in, sparking human connection and joyful collaboration. Groups may spontaneously gather around a public piano to sing or listen together.
Stimulates Creativity and Expression
Interacting with a piano, whether playing professionally or casually plunking out tunes, can awakened one’s creative spirit. The piano offers a means to express oneself.
Preserves Cultural Heritage
As an iconic instrument with a rich history, the piano is part of our shared cultural heritage. Restoring and revitalizing pianos helps preserves this heritage.
Playing piano relieves stress and induces relaxation. Community pianos invite music making among all ages, contributing to the overall wellbeing of a community.
Activates Public Spaces
Pianos in parks, transportation hubs and other public spaces bring art and spontaneity into the community. Public pianos invite human creativity and connection.
Challenges to Putting Pianos Into Play
While the benefits are abundant, there are also challenges to address in order to put more pianos into play. Being aware of these challenges will help you problem solve and plan for success.
Lack of Accessibility
Many used pianos end up in homes, schools, churches or businesses with limited public access. Piano owners may be reluctant to take on liability by opening access.
Costs of Piano Restoration
Used pianos often need extensive repairs and tuning before they can be played, which can get expensive. Transporting pianos also incurs costs.
Lack of Interest or Awareness
If people lack exposure to pianos or don’t know how to play, they may not take advantage of piano access opportunities. There is a need to stimulate interest and awareness.
Concerns About Noise, Damage, Theft
For public pianos, there may be concerns about noise disturbances, damage to the piano itself, and even theft. Proper oversight is needed.
Compliance With Regulations
For public pianos, compliance is needed in terms of disability access, permitting, liability waivers, and other regulations that vary by jurisdiction.
Tips for Putting Pianos Into Play
Here are some top tips for putting idle pianos into play, whether in homes, schools, businesses or public spaces:
Assess Community Needs and Interests
Determine if there is a need and desire for greater piano access in your specific community. Survey residents, schools, community organizations to gauge level of interest.
Rather than taking on a major project first, consider a small pilot. Place just 1-2 pianos in community hubs on temporary basis to test feasibility and surface any issues.
Partner With Groups
Collaborate with schools, nursing homes, businesses, community centers, arts organizations and others to identify spaces and resources for community pianos.
Engage Local Piano Tuners
Piano tuners and repair technicians can help assess used pianos and perform needed maintenance and repairs, often at reduced costs.
Develop Secure Plans
Address concerns like noise, piano care and theft through guidelines, oversight and secure piano covers. Require liability waivers for public pianos.
To generate interest, leverage competitions, concerts, social media, piano signage and partnerships to creatively promote piano play opportunities.
Start a Community Campaign
A “Put Pianos Into Play” campaign can rally and organize community support, funding and excitement around this goal.
Communities around the world have launched creative initiatives to put more pianos into play for the benefit of all. Here are some standout examples:
Play Me, I’m Yours
Started in the UK in 2008 by artist Luke Jerram, the Play Me, I’m Yours project has since placed over 1900 street pianos in over 70 cities worldwide, inviting anyone to play. The initiative has brought people together in powerful ways through the simple act of playing public pianos.
An artist painted 16 pianos which were placed in parks and public spaces across New York City in 2010 for 2 weeks. This urban art installation captured public intrigue and invited both spontaneous and scheduled performances.
Humans of New York
Photographer Brandon Stanton of the popular Humans of New York project hauled pianos to city streets and parks unannounced, documenting the meaningful connections and rich stories that emerged organically from people interacting with these pop-up pianos.
Piano Key Bench
In Sarasota, Florida, a dual-purpose concrete bench has embedded piano keys that can be casually played by anyone walking by this inviting public space. It’s both piano and bench!
Pianos for Peace
A charity called Pianos for Peace collects donated pianos, has them repaired by volunteers, then places them in underfunded public schools lacking music programs to expand access.
In Stockholm, Sweden, a public staircase was transformed into a massive working piano keyboard, giving commuters an unexpected opportunity to make music with their feet while climbing.
Resources to Get Started
Here are helpful resources if you want to start your own initiative to put pianos into play:
- Play Me I’m Yours – Global street piano project with best practices and helpful tools
- Piano Adoption Resources – Database to connect piano donors, tuners and recipients
- World’s Largest Playable Piano – Company offering innovative giant piano dancefloors for events
- How to Make an Outdoor Piano – DIY tutorial guides to build open-air pianos
- Outdoor Piano Covers – Weatherproof covers allow pianos to be placed outdoors
- Piano Movers – Moving companies specializing in transporting pianos safely
Putting Pianos Into Play: Call to Action
The stage is set for more pianos to be put into play for the benefit and enjoyment of our communities. This is a call to action – let’s tap into the powerful potential of the iconic piano.
With creativity and determination, you can be a changemaker. Convene partners, secure resources, fix up pianos and get them into community hubs. Promote access and teach others to play. See the piano come alive to connect and bring joy to people.
Imagine the bright future we can create when more pianos are put into play everywhere. Let’s start now. Our communities are ready for the creativity, self-expression and togetherness that pianos can inspire.
Why Put Pianos Into Play?
Playing piano provides many enriching benefits, yet countless pianos sit barely used. By putting more pianos into play through creative initiatives, we can spread the joy and value of music making. Here are key reasons to prioritize this goal:
Promotes Music Education
With more pianos in community spaces like schools and neighborhoods, aspiring musicians of all ages and backgrounds gain greater opportunity to learn piano. The skills learned through piano education have lifelong value.
Spurs Connection Through Shared Music Experiences
Pianos in communal hubs draw people together as they gather to play, listen and enjoy. Shared music experiences foster human connection. Strangers become friends.
Preserves Cultural Heritage
As an instrument with centuries of rich history, the piano is part of our shared cultural heritage. Maintaining pianos and keeping them in play honors this heritage.
Benefits Community Wellbeing
Research shows playing piano benefits emotional, social and cognitive wellbeing. Pianos also enliven public spaces, uplifting communities through the power of music.
Provides Meaningful Volunteer Opportunities
From piano repairs to community concerts, putting pianos into play generates volunteer roles that develop skills and bring people together with a sense of purpose.
Inspires Spontaneous Creativity
Casual play on easily accessible pianos in community spaces can spark spontaneity, creativity and joy among seasoned and novice players alike.
Putting more pianos into play simply enriches communities. Let’s tap into the abundant potential of idle pianos to spread the many rewards of piano playing to more people for greater life enrichment.
Common Challenges and Solutions
Worthwhile efforts to increase community piano access inevitably involve challenges. Being aware of common obstacles makes it easier to plan and problem solve. Here are some key challenges and potential solutions:
Challenge: Lack of Funding
Securing funding for purchases, repairs, moving, promotion and oversight of community pianos requires creativity.
- Apply for grants from arts foundations and community enhancement funds
- Launch crowdfunding campaigns online
- Charge affordable rental fees for public piano events
- Recruit volunteer technicians and piano movers
- Partner with local businesses for in-kind support through sponsorships
Challenge: Concerns About Theft or Vandalism
Placing pianos in public areas raises concerns about damage, graffiti or outright theft.
- Use protective covers secured with locks when pianos are unattended
- Install security cameras to monitor public pianos
- Recruit volunteers to periodically check on pianos
- Have patrons sign liability waivers holding them responsible for damages
- Secure pianos with cables attached to sturdy poles
- Mark pianos with ID tags making theft more difficult
Challenge: Noise Disturbances
Neighbors may complain about noise from community pianos, especially if played late at night.
- Set designated daytime hours for public piano use
- Place pianos only in designated “noise permitted” areas away from homes
- Have pianos available indoors during late night and early morning hours
- Limit amplified playing and use headphones when possible
- Post signage urging courteous volume when others are nearby
- Respond quickly to noise complaints and adjust as needed
Challenge: Lack of Interest or Ability
People may be unaware of community pianos or not know how to play them.
- Promote through social media, flyers, newspaper calendar listings
- Host free lessons and how-to sessions at the pianos
- Inform schools, youth groups, seniors groups of piano access
- Start a buddy program matching new players with volunteers
- Paint vibrant designs on pianos to attract attention and interest
Challenge: Permitting and Other Regulations
Public pianos require dealing with various regulations and permitting processes.
- Research regulations and permit procedures in advance
- Complete permit applications required for public Right of Way usage
- Make any needed disability access improvements
- Display required permits prominently on pianos
- Maintain liability insurance as needed
- Have pianos installed by bonded contractors if required
With good planning and community support, these common challenges to increased community piano access can be overcome through creative solutions. Don’t let obstacles stop you from pursuing this enriching goal for your neighborhood.
Getting Started: First Steps and Planning
Ready to launch your own initiative to get more pianos into play? Here are some helpful first steps:
Recruit an Action Team
Gather a small team of enthusiastic supporters to begin brainstorming and planning. Look for people with skills like music teaching, piano repair, event planning, marketing, fundraising, and organization management. Empower members to take on meaningful roles.
Inventory potential community hubs where accessible pianos could make an impact. Great options include town squares, parks, community centers, nursing homes, schools, libraries, and transit hubs. Seek partnerships with property owners or managers.
Find Used Pianos
Post on community boards and check listings sites seeking donated used pianos. Contact schools, churches, piano retailers, and piano movers for leads. Assess potential free pianos for good condition or easy/affordable remediation.
Address Logistics Upfront
Figure out transportation, secure storage locations, recruitment of piano technicians, protective covers, and other logistics for getting pianos into designated community spaces and keeping them protected.
Tap Into Community Interest
Before launching, use surveys, town meetings, and social media to gauge community interest. Get input on optimal piano locations and promotion ideas. Shape your initiative based on community needs and desires.
Rather than tackling a complex major launch first, consider starting with 1-2 pianos in community spaces on a pilot basis. This allows testing logistics before expanding. Starting small also requires fewer resources.
Line Up Support Early
Meet with key community partners to discuss location usage, promotion, liability waivers, maintenance roles and funding possibilities. Lining up support ahead of time leads to greater success activating and sustaining community pianos.
Thoughtful early planning and incremental steps will pave the way for your initiative to start strong by putting the first pianos into play in your community. Let the music begin!
Finding the Right Pianos
Not just any piano will do if you want to successfully put pianos into play. Place priority on finding quality used pianos well suited for community use. Here’s what to look for:
Favor Upright Pianos
Choose upright or “vertical” pianos which have a small footprint ideal for public spaces. Avoid heavy, bulky grand pianos which are hard to move and store.
Seek Durable Models
Opt for quality built Yamaha, Kawai, Kimball, Baldwin, Steinway or Sohmer uprights. Pass on novelty pianos which won’t hold up. Sturdy pianos can better handle long-term community use.
Test Keys and Pedals
Try out all keys and pedals yourself before accepting a donated piano. Ensure it plays properly and pedals work. Assess touch sensitivity and listen for sour notes.
Inspect the piano for brittleness, sticking keys, major scratches, gouges or other excessive wear. Choose pianos in decent shape. Avoid those needing major repairs.
Address Tuning Needs
Even quality pianos go out of tune over time. Have a piano tech evaluate tuning needs before placing community pianos. Handle any needed tuning.
Consider Locking Lids
For public pianos, look for models with locking lids or add securing hardware. This deters vandalism and protects from rain damage when pianist isn’t playing.
Favor Portable Weights
Test if the piano can be moved reasonably by 2-4 able people. Super heavy and bulky pianos will be cumbersome to transport and maneuver into display locations.
Evaluate Repair Costs
Get estimates on potential fix up costs for used pianos. See if repairs will still yield pianos suited for communuty use at reasonable overall cost.
Try Before You Take
Don’t pick up or pay for any community piano without hearing it played, testing all keys and seeing it operating fully. Fully vet potential pianos first.
Carefully choosing quality, durable used pianos will provide the right foundation to successfully share the gift of music with your community.
Creative Ways to Promote Piano Access
Once community pianos are secured and ready, it takes thoughtful promotion to generate awareness and interest that will actually get people playing. Here are creative ways to promote new piano access:
Concerts and Classes
Host public piano concerts by local musicians. Offer group lessons at various skill levels at the piano locations to teach newcomers.
Recruit local artists to paint fun original designs on community pianos to create eye-catching focal points and photo spots.
Name the Pianos
Generate a unique name for each public piano through a community naming contest. Create painted name plates affixed to the pianos.
Post fun videos of people interacting with the pianos on neighborhood Facebook pages and other social media. Use relevant hashtags.
Grand Opening Events
Stage kickoff celebrations when launching new community pianos. Have local dignitaries play the first notes. Offer games and prizes.
Pitch newspaper, radio and TV features on the new community pianos. Media coverage raises visibility and interest.
Open Mic Nights
Host regularly scheduled open mic nights at the pianos to provide a platform for musicians and build ongoing crowds.
Piano Bar Nights
Organize periodically scheduled piano bar nights with drinks, snacks and sing-alongs around the pianos in community spaces.
Map out routes between multiple pianos and host public “piano crawls” allowing people to play at each location on the walk or bike tour.
Post creative flyers about the pianos at nearby shops, restaurants, schools and community centers to invite casual participation.
Pianos promoting themselves may seem ideal, but it takes thoughtful human-led efforts through