School of Music piano technician, Lucy Urlacher, tests out the freshly painted street piano
Photo credit: Tina England
Cathy Rose, this year's artist for the street piano
Photo credit: Jordan Schiefer
In hundreds of cities across the globe, one can walk down the street and encounter a beautifully painted, bright piano. The global phenomena began in 2008 in the United Kingdom in an effort to encourage strangers to stop and enjoy a little music and get to know each other a little better. The trend has become increasingly popular over the years and thousands of pianos now grace cities nationwide. For several years, the MU School of Music has hosted a street piano in front of the Fine Arts Building on the MU campus. Shortly before finals week, it is then moved to various downtown locations throughout the summer. School of Music piano technician, Lucy Urlacher, and other members of the Piano Technicians Guild prepare and oversee the piano while it is out and about.
When a piano has reached the point that it’s about to be sent to disposal, the guild members fix it up for one last run. An artist then volunteers their time to paint it. This year’s artist is Cathy Rose, Strategic Communications Associate in the College of Education. Urlacher and Rose attend a Pilates class together on campus. One day in passing conversation, the subject of the street pianos came up and Cathy jumped at the chance to volunteer to be this year’s artist. She was so happy to stretch her painting muscles with this project, “I have a degree in fine art and am a graphic designer, but due to career and family responsibilities, finding time to exercise my desire to create fine art can be a challenge. It had been a very long time since I had painted anything that would be seen by people out in public, so getting started wasn’t an easy task. I feared judgment and was hesitant with every stroke in the beginning process. But after a while I loosened up and realized, ‘hey, this is supposed to be fun and eye-catching, not something to be critiqued and overanalyzed.’”
Volunteering for such a project is fun but also time consuming. Cathy is very appreciative of her family and friends for their support. “I have a husband and six-year-old daughter who despite my long hours away from home, were very encouraging and supportive of me during my time working on the project. My friend, Katie, was also very supportive, bringing me dinner one night, while also helping with some painting. My coworkers tolerated me while I stumbled in half-awake after a few late evenings. All of these people in my life know the importance of an opportunity to do what you love, and I am grateful for their support.”
A young pianist passed by the piano and stopped to play a tune. When asked what she thought of the piano she replied, “it’s totally cool, I love it!” Bright colors and a cool, summer theme transformed this piano into a beautiful, fun instrument that will undoubtedly bring much fun and entertainment to passersby in the District this summer. Be sure to stop and check it out and/or follow on twitter, #streetpianocomo.