Play Me, I’m Yours: The History of Pianos as Street Art

Play Me, I'm YoursHearing piano playing while walking down the street isn’t something we expect everyday. But with the “Play Me, I’m Yours” campaign, there could be street pianos coming to your city soon. The program has been around since 2008, and has blossomed to placing street pianos all around the world with one simple encouragement: “Play me, I’m yours.”

How it Started

The first city with street pianos from the Play Me, I’m Yours project was Birmingham, UK. There was 15 pianos placed around the city, and the creator, Luke Jerram, estimates that around 140,000 people either played or heard at least one of the street pianos.

The goal of the Play Me, I’m Yours project was to allow the citizens of each metropolitan area to engage with each other through piano playing. Jerram came up with the idea when he was at his local laundromat. Since everyone was there on a somewhat regular schedule, but kept to themselves, there wasn’t any interaction. When a piano was thrown into the mix, and people began playing it, all of a sudden there was a common interest. Some played the piano and were willing to entertain the other customers, and others simply enjoyed the music and encouraged those who played.

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The Pianos

The pianos in the Play Me, I’m Yours campaign are all secondhand instruments. When someone is getting rid of a piano in a large city, Jerram works to bring it to another city where it can be used in an installation. With the project, these pianos get a second life as a street piano, and the residents of the new city get a chance to share their piano playing skills with each other.

When the installation is completed, the street pianos are normally donated to schools and other organizations that use them for continued learning, music lessons, or performances.

Where the Pianos Have Been

Even though the program started in the UK, it has grown to include cities around the world. The street pianos have been featured on five of the seven continents. Both Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia have all had installations since 2008, including large metropolitans such as NYC, Los Angeles, and London, and mid-sized cities such as Cleveland, Stoke-on-Trent (England), and Toowoomba (Australia).

3519225282_9416f0b08e_oSurprising Connections

In every city the program begins, the reception has always been quite positive. Participants are encouraged to post pictures or videos while playing, and some of these videos have actually gona viral. After all, it’s not every day you see a maestro playing a fantastic piano piece in the middle of a park or crowded downtown area!

Just like a surprise piano player may draw a crowd because it’s unexpected, new relationships have formed because of the street pianos. Someone having the courage to play for complete strangers has inspired others to propose or ask their crush out on a date. Talk about life-changing events!

If there are street pianos in your city, take advantage of them! Work with your private instructor to put together a few pieces to play the next time you see one, and put on a show for passersby. You’ll want to make sure that the songs you’re playing are really polished up, since you’re performing in public and might feel a bit nervous before you start. Keep your confidence high with a familiar tune that you know you can play well. Then you can keep rolling with more difficult pieces in your repertoire, and continue to wow your impromptu audience. Who knows, maybe someone in the crowd will take a video of your playing, and it’ll go viral like others have already!

 

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Photos by zoonabarTodd DwyerAndrew Stawarz

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