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Archive for Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lawrence’s public piano attracts enthusiastic performers

A Lawrence women is wanting to place pianos outdoors around town for residents to play. Currently there is a painted one outside Cottin's Hardware, where Bradford Hoopes, a local piano teacher, and members of his family often stop to play.

October 19, 2010

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Doors were open for business Tuesday at Cottin’s Hardware & Rental, 1832 Mass., but it was all boogie-woogie for Bradford Hoopes, Lawrence, as he pounded out a tune on a painted piano outside the store. Melissa Warren, a piano technician at Kansas University, fixed up the upright piano and arranged to have it placed at Cottin’s. Warren hopes to place more pianos around town for members of the public to play.

Doors were open for business Tuesday at Cottin’s Hardware & Rental, 1832 Mass., but it was all boogie-woogie for Bradford Hoopes, Lawrence, as he pounded out a tune on a painted piano outside the store. Melissa Warren, a piano technician at Kansas University, fixed up the upright piano and arranged to have it placed at Cottin’s. Warren hopes to place more pianos around town for members of the public to play.

Ray Charles. Traffic. Dad.

Bradford Hoopes channels them all, playing a free-for-all piano outside a hardware store on Massachusetts Street.

Listen. Learn. Enjoy.

“I usually play the ‘boogie woogie’ my Dad taught me, or some sort of ragtime or stride thing, because it just sounds great on a stand-up piano,” said Hoopes, who’s been turning manual keystrokes into music for 41 of his nearly 45 years. “I like to do jumpy stuff. It suits this piano, the setting.”

The setting is new for Lawrence, a public piano in a public place used for public performances — all of them outdoors, in concert with other movements throughout the country.

What started this summer with 60 pianos as part of a public-art exhibition in New York City has expanded into downtown Iowa City and, just recently, even the south-central Kansas town of Hutchinson.

“It’s kind of a community thing,” said Melissa Warren, a piano technician at Kansas University who fixed up a Story and Clark upright and arranged to have it placed at Cottin’s Hardware and Rental, 1832 Mass. “It’s just a nice way to encourage interest in the piano and have some public music.”

Warren and Hoopes are among those hoping the public stage — this one literally pushed up against an exterior brick wall at Cottin’s — can expand into other venues throughout Lawrence.

So far, the idea has yet to catch on.

Preliminary inquiries at the Lawrence Public Library, the Lawrence Community Shelter and even her bank at the edge of downtown Lawrence all were rebuffed, Warren said, because of liability concerns — specifically, that a piano might tip over and fall on people.

“I didn’t think I would meet this much resistance,” said Warren, who spent 18 years as a Lawrence firefighter before retiring three years ago. “There was a time 100 years ago when every establishment had a piano. It was the ‘in’ thing. Instead of a radio or a TV, every place had a piano. …

“I think we’re getting a little too uptight about regulating everything, every little bit. We’re stifling all the fun.”

New York City allowed the pianos to be played in public, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Iowa City recently approved a permit process for the placement of public pianos on downtown sidewalks from March through October.

Warren figures the River City could be next.

“If it can work in New York,” she said, “it can work in Lawrence.”

Joe Cottin, assistant manager at his parents’ hardware store, welcomes both the interest the sky blue piano generates and the music it produces each day, thanks to the 10 to 15 people who pull up a bench.

“We’ve had people who can play full concertos and whatnot, playing them all the way through,” Cottin said. “We’ve also had people playing ‘Chopsticks.’ Little kids play while their parents shop. Kids from the junior high stop by on their way home from school.

“It’s not our piano as much as it is a piano for the neighborhood.”

Hoopes is hoping he and his own kids, ages 8 and 6, one day will be able to play, practice and experiment with pianos downtown — along with anyone else who wants to join in.

“It’ll be a scene,” he said.

Comments

jimincountry 3 years, 5 months ago

neat idea...........hey, i might begin enjoying going through and to Lawrence again!

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macon47 3 years, 5 months ago

our lawrencians will only play them using rubber gloves so they dont get finger fungus of course they will have on thier tin foil hats

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bearded_gnome 3 years, 5 months ago

spiderd (anonymous) replies …

That really does settle it. I mean, I was willing to give you some sort of benefit of the doubt for a really long time but, you really are a major jack ass. Really.

October 19, 2010 at 9:41 p.m.

---really?

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George_Braziller 3 years, 5 months ago

I love the idea. The only thing I'm wondering is if they are sitting outside (even if they are in a protected area) how many times a year do they have to be tuned? With the wide fluctuations in temperature that Kansas has it seems like they'd go flat pretty quickly.

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Rich Noever 3 years, 5 months ago

Maybe we ought to vote against the library expansion. Maybe the expansion would tip over and hurt a child. You touchy feely people are no fun!

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coolhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

I think it is great and I support having pianos. We can use some music to brighten the day. My concern is Vandalism. What happens to the pianos if someone tries to ruin everyones' fun by tearing up the pianos or tagging them or whatever? And, how are they maintained?

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dragonwagon2 3 years, 5 months ago

This is a wonderful idea. Just got back from Denver where they have pianos planted on their 16 Street Mall for all to play. Very cool!

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bearded_gnome 3 years, 5 months ago

and: bravvo to the Cottins!

great idea.

now, since you're a hardware store, let's get: musical saws; wrenches for percussion; etc.

you could have a jam night there each week? all tools plus your cool blue piano.

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bearded_gnome 3 years, 5 months ago

piano at Signs of Life for the playing.

often, people playing it are very good indeed.

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hilary 3 years, 6 months ago

Saw this piano on an evening walk to Dillons over the weekend. I sat down and played for about 20 minutes. I have a job where there's at least five pianos at my disposal at anytime, but it was much more fun to play alone on this one in the middle of an urban environment, with no one there to hear it. Give it a try!

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MyName 3 years, 6 months ago

Okay first of all how is this "the left" it sounds more like "nosy neighbors". And secondly, the huge difference is that the businesses are downtown away from people's homes and the people with the cars playing the loud music are outside your house while you're trying to sleep. If you don't like the music downtown, you can go home. If you don't like the music at home, you can't do anything but call the neighbors or the police.

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thepianoman 3 years, 6 months ago

This so cool. I will be stopping by this Saturday to tickle those ivories!!!

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JustNoticed 3 years, 6 months ago

The LEFT???!!! Amazing, you've obviously been football without the helmet in your Shrek picture.

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consumer1 3 years, 6 months ago

So, as I understand it, you can get a ticket for loud sound (music) coming from your car, but this guy can play the piano on the side walk? and , restaraunts can blare music onto the sidewalks? but cars get tickets???? Okay ? The left wants to control who can play music...

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consumer1 3 years, 6 months ago

So, as I understand it, you can get a ticket for loud sound (music) coming from your car, but this guy can play the piano on the side walk? and , restaraunts can blare music onto the sidewalks? but cars get tickets???? Okay ? The left wants to control who can play music...

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