Pianos in the Parks encourage park discovery through music

Piano from the 2014 Pianos in the Parks program. Photo provided by Laird Norton Wealth Management.

It’s music to our ears: the pianos are back. After a successful first campaign, Pianos in the Parks will be returning for a second season on July 16. The month-long program will add to additional pianos to the roster this year, totaling 22 pianos in Puget Sound-area locations. Seattle Parks and Recreation will host 11 pianos in public parks.

The program, led by Laird Norton Wealth Management, is designed to encourage the discovery of parks through music and art by placing one-of-a-kind, artist-designed upright and grand pianos in parks and public spaces across King County including Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Mercer Island and Sea-Tac, for free public use and music exploration.

All 22 previously owned pianos are procured, repaired, tuned, transported and maintained by Classic Pianos; and are painted by student, alumni and faculty artists of Gage Academy of Art.

Piano from the 2014 Pianos in the Parks program. Photo provided by Laird Norton Wealth Management.

The specific parks and public spaces which will host the pianos through Aug. 16 will be announced at a public kick-off celebration from noon to 1:30pm on Thursday, July 16 at Lake Union Park (860 Terry Avenue North) near the park’s model boat pond in downtown Seattle. At the celebration, local artists who painted the pianos will unveil their works of art – followed by a musical performance in which all 22 instruments will be played by local pianists. Also participating in the event are a number of musicians, city and county officials, and program partners. Following the unveiling, the public will have an opportunity to view all 22 pianos, meet the artists and be treated to additional musical performances.

“We’re excited to participate in the Pianos in the Parks program for a second year,” Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jesús Aguirre said. “We strive for all residents, regardless of income, neighborhood or background, to have access to free recreational activities in our parks, and this is a unique opportunity for different communities to come together and unite around a common appreciation for music and fresh air.”

Piano from the 2014 Pianos in the Parks program. Photo provided by Laird Norton Wealth Management.

Laird Norton Wealth Management underwrites and manages the program with generous community support from founding partners Classic Pianos, Gage Academy of Art, KEXP 90.3 FM, Seattle Symphony, PlayNetwork, Seattle City of Music, Seattle Parks and Recreation and King County Parks; as well as new partners Bellevue Parks and Recreation, Kirkland Parks and Community Services and Mercer Island Parks and Recreation, Classical KING FM, City of Bellevue Arts Program, Mercer Island Center for Arts and Seattle Center. The program also receives support from KCTS 9 and Port of Seattle.

The pianos will welcome park-goers in their respective locations thru Aug. 16. During this time, people of all skill levels and musical persuasions are urged to enter a Pianos in the Parks video contest for a chance to perform as part of the Seattle Center’s Concerts at the Mural presented by KEXP 90.3 FM on Friday, Aug. 21. Entrants simply need to upload a video of their performance using one of the participating pianos to the Pianos in the Parks website, www.pianosintheparks.com beginning July 16.

For more information on Pianos in the Parks, visit www.pianosintheparks.com.

Pianos in the Parks program wins statewide award

The Pianos in the Park recently recognized by the Washington Recreation and Park Association. Photo provided by Laird Norton Wealth Management.

The Washington Recreation and Park Association awarded the Pianos in the Parks program a Spotlight Award in Arts and Culture at a statewide Parks conference on April 30.

In July 2014, Seattle Parks partnered with Laird Norton Wealth Management, King County Parks and local arts organizations to launch the Pianos in the Parks campaign. The campaign placed 20 decorated pianos in Seattle parks, King County parks, Seattle Center and City Hall Plaza to encourage residents to explore green and open spaces and to share and enjoy each other’s art.

The pianos were donated by Classic Pianos and were stationed in the parks until Aug. 17. People were invited to play the pianos and were encouraged to upload videos of their park performances to a Facebook page for a chance to play at KEXP’s and Seattle Center’s “Concerts at the Mural.” The Facebook entries that received the highest number of “Likes” were judged by a community panel.

At the end of the campaign, the pianos were sold to the highest bidder in an online auction. Proceeds from the pianos sales benefitted art and community organizations.

The Pianos in the Parks campaign was designed to foster a sense of community, break down class and racial divides and to make summer safer by activating neighborhood parks. More than 150 people submitted online contest videos. Additionally, the campaign was featured in approximately 100 media stories.

Seattle Parks heard many stories of families and individuals who made it their summer goals to find every piano. In fact, one Seattleite completed a 59-mile urban hike over one weekend to visit all 20 pianos.

For more information on the program, please visit http://pianosintheparks.com/.

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).

Pianos in the Parks campaign launched July 17

Pianos in the Parks piano located in Westlake Park. Piano decorated by Gage Academy of Art.

 

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man! Sing us a song tonight! Well we’re all in the mood for a melody. And we’ve put pianos in parks.

It may not be quite the scene Billy Joel described in his famous lyrics, but the message is the same. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, everyone can unite around music.

On July 17, Laird Norton Wealth Management partnered with Seattle Parks and Recreation, King County Parks and local arts and business organizations to launch Pianos in the Parks. The Pianos in the Parks campaign placed 20 decorated pianos in Seattle parks, King County parks, Seattle Center and City Hall Plaza hoping to encourage residents to explore green and open spaces and to share and enjoy each other’s art.

Gary Faigin, Co-founder and Artistic Director at Gage Academy of Art, addresses the crowd at the Pianos in the Parks campaign launch in Othello Park.

 

“We are thrilled to host this positive and innovative way to bring more people into our parks and to listen to music for all to enjoy,” said Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The first piano was unveiled at an event in Othello Park. The other Seattle Parks locations include Cal Anderson Park, Denny Park, Hing Hay Park, Ballard Commons Park, Green Lake Park, Alki Beach Park, Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, Pier 62/63, Sam Smith Park, Rainier Beach Plaza, Volunteer Park and Westlake Park.

Shenandoah Davis and Sean Nelson perform on the piano in Othello Park.

 

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he’s excited about the campaign because it fosters a sense of community, breaks down class and racial divides and makes summer safer by helping to activate neighborhood parks.

Pianos in the Parks piano

 

Other partners include Seattle Symphony, KEXP, Gage Academy of Art, City of Music and Classic Pianos.

The pianos were procured and donated by Classic Pianos and will be available in the parks until Aug. 17. Members of the public are invited to play the pianos and can upload videos of their park performances to the Pianos in the Parks Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pianosintheparks) for a chance to play at KEXP’s and Seattle Center’s “Concerts at the Mural” on Friday, Aug. 22. The Facebook entries that receive the highest number of “likes” will be judged by a community panel and a winner will be selected.

Pianos in the Parks piano

 

“This is an epic finale for these pianos,” Classic Pianos Sales Manager Ben Klinger said. “We’re giving people from all walks of life the chance to enjoy these instruments in a public setting. I can’t wait to see how the community engages with Pianos in the Parks.”

At the end of the campaign, the pianos will be sold to the highest bidder in an online auction on www.pianosintheparks.com. Proceeds from the pianos sales will benefit Seattle Parks and Recreation, King County Parks, Seattle Symphony, KEXP and Gage Academy of Art.

For more information about Pianos in the Parks scheduled activities, participating parks/open spaces and full contest information, please visit: www.pianosintheparks.com. To tag contest entries, pictures and experiences, use the hashtag #PianosintheParks and send your photos to @seattleparks on Twitter.