This month, Monterey joined the ranks of the world’s major cities as the regions streets are filled with music and visual art. Monterey Symphony presents, ‘Play Me, I’m Yours – Monterey 2013’ part of aninternationally touring artwork devised by British artist Luke Jerram. Since the project’s inception in 2008, more than 700 pianos have been installed in public locations in 30 cities across the globe, from New York to London bearing the simple invitation ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’. The project has reached more than two million people worldwide, with each new city that commissions the work becoming part of a growing legacy.
From March 9-24, 2013, ten artfully decorated pianos have been installed in public locations throughout the community for residents and visitors to play. There are no prerequisites for the public to participate, the most learned to the complete novice or uninitiated pianist are welcome to play these “street pianos” during the two week period.
The Monterey Symphony chose to undertake ‘Play Me, I’m Yours – Monterey 2013’ to highlight current Season of Piano. Staff and board members soon understood that the project impact could reach well beyond the symphony, to benefit the arts and cultural community as a whole. By partnering with a number of Monterey’s most prominent non-profit/cultural organizations, Monterey Symphony and its project partners will raise awareness of public art, music and culture by putting them front and center in the county’s most visited locations.
GIVING OLD PIANOS NEW LIFE
With the emergence of electronic music and high quality, inexpensive electronic keyboards, the upright piano is slowly being relegated to the junk yard in many communities. The instruments were once a fixture in most American homes, and while the loss of this collective, domestic music making is lamentable, the instruments themselves still have plenty to offer. Monterey Symphony sought used piano donations from the community and received 16 pianos from happy homes that had to say goodbye to their instrument for one reason or another. At least 10 of these pianos will receive a face lift including repair and painting before being placed out in the open air for a two week period. Each piano will come with a raincoat which any passerby can pull over the keyboard to protect it from precipitation. At the end of the project, the partner institutions will have the opportunity to adopt their piano. If they decline, members of the community at large will be granted the opportunity to take a keyboard home.
A Collaborative Approach to Serve All
While the project is funded largely by private contributions to the Monterey Symphony, the orchestra has invited numerous other cultural institutions to help paint, place and protect the pianos that will adorn the region’s streets. In exchange for adopting pianos as part of the project, these “piano buddies” will be recognized by name on their piano and in a map of the piano sites.
“Through these eye and ear catching instruments, we hope to raise awareness about the Monterey Symphony’s Season of Piano and the variety of arts and culture present in our region. We hope that people will “tour” the project twice, once by visiting the pianos and their locations, and the second time by visiting each of our cultural partners to see what they have to offer. We want everyone to learn more about what we do collectively to make our region a better place,” said Ed Feingold, Monterey Symphony’s Executive Director.
In addition to the presenter, Monterey Symphony, ‘Play Me, I’m Yours – Monterey 2013’ cultural partners include: The Alisal Center for the Fine Arts, Asilomar State Beach & Conference Grounds, Carmel Art & Film Festival, First Night Monterey, Monterey Jazz Festival, MY Museum, The National Steinbeck Center, Monterey Museum of Art, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Sunset Cultural Center, Youth Arts Collective. A full list of contributors including piano locations will be available online at montereypianos.com on the evening of March 8, 2013.
While several scheduled events will be held, most of the time the pianos will be available for all to play during the day and evening. Monterey Symphony and First Night Monterey revealed the first two street pianos at the Symphony’s October Symphony of Flavors gala fundraiser and did so again for the general public at First Night Monterey 2012 and the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The instruments drew attention immediately from those passing—from kids to grandparents. A 20-something attendee of First Night, upon passing the chalkboard piano (yes, you can write on it) said, “This is the coolest thing here tonight!” In spite of loud bands competing with the piano for attention, crowds gathered constantly around the instruments and the line waiting to play it seemed to confirm the young man’s sentiment.
The Old Fisherman’s Wharf Association was among the first sites to sign onto the project, voting in favor of placing a piano near toward the end of the pier. Piano enthusiasts will be able to “tickle the ivories” while sailboats drift by and harbor seals and sea otters play below.
The Monterey Symphony and its partners expect thousands of visitors to tour the pianos during the two weeks, and in the process, will help them see more of the county and its vibrant communities than they may otherwise.
THE VIRTUAL PROJECT
A key feature of ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ is the use of social media to create a forum for gathering around the art project online. While the pianos exist in the real world, the public will be able to participate in cyberspace by posting to and reviewing a blog for each piano. Pianists and admirers can document their performances and thoughts. Twitter and Facebook pages will also call attention to scheduled events and the most interesting videos submitted by the public. An interactive map of the piano locations will be available online and printed versions at each piano. Fans of the project are invited to “like” the corresponding Facebook page to receive updates on the pianos.
Visit www.montereypianos.com to post and share films, photos and stories about the pianos. Whilst documenting each piano’s journey, the website connects the pianos and their communities across the city and acts as a legacy for the artwork. Individuals may also “tweet” their experiences using the hashtag #streetpianos.
Thank you for your support!
Touring internationally since 2008, Play Me, I’m Yours is an artwork by British artist Luke Jerram. Reaching over two million people worldwide to date – 700+ pianos have been installed in cities across the globe bearing the simple instruction ‘Play Me, I’m Yours.’
“The idea for Play Me, I’m Yours came from visiting my local launderette. I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another. I suddenly realized that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into these spaces was my solution to the problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of the space.” ~Luke Jerram, International Artist and Creator of Play Me, I’m Yours
Located in public parks, bus shelters and train stations, outside galleries and markets and even on bridges and ferries, the pianos are available for any member of the public to play and enjoy. Who plays them and how long they remain is up to each community. Many of the pianos are personalized and decorated by artists and/or the local community. By creating a place of exchange, Play Me, I’m Yours invites the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environments.
Luke Jerram is a British artist (born 1974) whose multidisciplinary practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations and live arts projects. Living in the UK but working internationally, Jerram has created a number of extraordinary art projects that have excited and inspired people around the globe. For more information visit www.lukejerram.com.