Pianos in the Parks campaign encouraged music, community and a whole lot of walking

The piano in Maple Leaf Reservoir Park. Photo by Jason Barber


The Pianos in the Parks campaign ran from July 17 to Aug. 17, and park visitors seemed to enjoy every minute of it.  People from all over King County sought out the 20 parks pianos during the last month and entertained passersby with their musical talents. Thirteen of the pianos were in Seattle parks. The pianos brought together members of the community. Circles formed around musicians as familiar songs were played.

The piano in Westlake Park. Photo by Jason Barber

But the Pianos in the Parks campaign inspired more than just musicians. For one Seattle man, the pianos inspired a 59-mile urban hike.

Jason Barber was born and raised in Seattle and works at Harborview Medical Center as a research consultant and biostatistician in the Department of Neurological Surgery. He recently met Erin Moyer, the Director of Marketing at Laird Norton Wealth Management, the company that spearheaded the Pianos in the Parks campaign. When he heard about the 20 pianos, he decided to walk to all of them in a single weekend.

Jason Barber’s walking route, day 1.

“I’ve done a fair amount of hiking in the past, but a couple years ago I started doing 25-mile solo hikes in and around the city for a change of pace,” Barber said. “I found that I really enjoyed locating and visiting lesser-known Seattle neighborhoods and landmarks that I’d only ever heard about. Pianos in the Parks provided the perfect motivation to plan and execute a challenging two-day walk that not only took me through new territory and dozens of neighborhoods, but also provided very tangible milestones along the way to mark my progress.”

Barber said arriving at each of the locations felt special, so he had a difficult time choosing a favorite piano. He said he particularly liked how the Gage Academy of Art artists used unexpected psychedelic colors on the Steve Cox and Marymoor pianos and he also enjoyed the jungle piano at Sam Smith Park and the ocean piano at Hing Hay Park.

Jason Barber’s walking route, day 2.

Barber said he took the piano lessons as a child, but hasn’t played in many years and didn’t attempt a contest entry. However he did spot three people during his walk that were recording their performances on their smart phones.

“There was a tattooed guy with a skateboard who was totally rockin’ out “Billie Jean” on the Westlake piano,” Barber said. “He definitely drew the largest crowd of all the performers I saw and clearly enjoyed being the showman.”

To see other people inspired by the parks pianos, visit the campaign’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pianosintheparks. The winner of the Parks in the Pianos contest will perform this Friday, Aug. 22, at the Concerts at the Mural presented by KEXP and Seattle Center. The concert will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Mural Amphitheatre (305 Harrison St).