Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Ellen Murphy, Contributor
During class exchanges at Kalamazoo College there is a flow of students from building to building. The sidewalks get crowded. The intersection where Thompson meets Academy is claimed by pedestrians and cars lose priority. There is a chatter of exchanges. The doors to the library and the fine arts building open and close with a syncopated beat. Recently, to harmonize it all, there has been piano music.
It is difficult to miss the bright-orange piano outside of the fine arts building (FAB) first because of its bright color but, more spectacularly, the talent of student pianists draw attention. Pianists on campus are no longer hidden in the underground practice rooms in the basement of the FAB. Though the piano has found a home on Kalamazoo College’s campus, it is not owned by Kalamazoo College. The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, informally “The Gilmore,” temporarily installed the orange piano and twelve others equally bright in color in Kalamazoo, Portage and Battle Creek the piano for community use. The art instillation project is titled “Play.Out.Loud” and will run from April 26 to May 12, 2012.
Although it is the first time a project like this has been organized in Kalamazoo, many cities have similar instillation exhibits. The Play.Out.Loud project is modeled after British artist Luke Jerram’s international piano instillation titled, “Play Me, I’m Yours.” Jerram began installing pianos in major cities in 2008 and has since installed over three hundred pianos in cities like Sydney, Barcelona, Paris, New York and Los Angles with the simple message, “Play Me, I’m Yours.”
The philosophy behind the pianos in Kalamazoo is a bit different. Mary McCormick, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, caught wind of Jerram’s art project and thought that the Gilmore and Kalamazoo could recreate this idea in a way that would involve the community and recreate the Gilmore’s image in process. “One of my personal goals” McCormick explains, “is for the street piano project to dispel any misconceptions about the Gilmore; that it’s only for people that are very knowledg(able) about classical music. It’s for enjoying music in general and we really wanted to so something that brought the music out of the concert hall and into the community. We’ve had students say that they didn’t think that the Gilmore was cool until they saw the pianos outside and now they have a whole different impression.”
The Play.Out.Loud pianos are attempting to change the way Kalamazoo residents are engaging with music. McCormick stresses that with the Play.Out.Loud project, “We’re not asking for you to buy a ticket. It’s just free. So just enjoy!” It is important to note (no pun intended) that student tickets for most the Gilmore events are $5.