24 May 2014

Summer Music is in the Air

It’s almost summer and music will again fill the air in many cities across the United States and the world. In 2008, British artist Luke Jerram decided that music should be free to everyone to play and enjoy. He created “Play Me, I’m Yours”, a program that placed pianos in public spaces for anyone to play. Soon people from all levels of talent were sitting down, playing and most often drawing a crowd. Sometimes people would join in with a song and before anyone knew it, the air would be filled with music. 

In a few years, 1,300 pianos were placed in 46 cities around the world from London to New York. Cities included Luxembourg, Paris, Stockholm, and many others. The program was expanded to include local artists who volunteered to decorate the pianos. Pianos were donated or purchased by the organization. They were placed in public areas like parks, transit stations, outdoor malls and markets. There were no restrictions on who could play or how long they could play. People could sit for a few minutes and bang out "Chopsticks" or sit for an hour and play a classical piano concerto.

At the end of summer, the pianos were often donated to community organizations. Many used them to start music programs that they could not afford before. The idea of pianos in public places continues to spread and has been called the musical equivalent of Facebook.

New York City was the site of one the most popular outdoor piano programs. The Sing for Hope Pianos program was endorsed by then Mayor Bloomberg who invited both amateurs and professionals to take part. The pianos were adorned with bright decorations, giving local artists a chance to show their talent. In 2013, you could find these pianos in popular outdoor spaces like plazas, parks and streets. The pianos were later donated to schools, community organizations and other non-profit groups.

Some of the concerns that skeptics cited have not happened. There is almost no incidence of vandalism or misuse of the pianos. Recently, a new program was started in Iowa to usher in the spring and summer season. Hopefully, many more cities will adopt the idea to the delight of music lovers everywhere.

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