British Columbia

Keys to the Streets fundraising for Vancouver's public pianos

One of two organizations responsible for putting out public pianos in the Lower Mainland is struggling to find funding in time for this summer.

Volunteer group needs $20K to roll out pianos again this summer

Karen Hefford plays a tune on a Keys to the Street piano in Vancouver's City Square Shopping Centre. (Wanyee Li/CBC)

One organization responsible for putting out public pianos in Vancouver is struggling to find funding this summer. 

CityStudio ran the public piano project, Keys to the Streets, the past two summers but is now stepping back. Two volunteers have started a fundraising campaign in a bid to keep the program running.

Aaron Tilston-Redican and Becky Till are taking the reins and plan to roll out 10 pianos again this summer.

But the two CityStudio alumni are struggling to secure funding to cover the cost of moving the pianos, which can be as much as $8,500 for 10 instruments.

"The goal is to raise $20,000 so that we can get out those 10 pianos again," said Tilston-Redican.

The duo plan to use some of the funds to create a long-term solution as well. Tilston-Redican explained they want future project leaders to have a source of consistent funding.

"The goal is that in 20 years, these pianos are still out on the street in Vancouver," he said.

CityStudio placed four public pianos in Vancouver's parks in the summer of 2013 and added six to the roster last year. 

Joining forces

The people behind Keys to the Streets are exploring the possibility of collaborating with another project, called Pianos on the Street

The Piano Teachers Federation, created by Sean Pacey, placed 16 pianos in various locations in the Lower Mainland last summer as part of a that project.

Pacey is not worried about funding and plans to put out more than 20 this year.

He told the CBC most of the funding for Pianos on the Street comes from his piano-store business.

"The majority of the funding goes on through Pacey's pianos, through me." 

"But that being said the city is involved in the funding as well."

Last week, the Keys to the Streets duo and Pacey met for the first time to talk about working together to put out more pianos for the public to enjoy.

In the past, the two groups have not worked together but neither of the parties were willing to say why. Pacey was open to the idea. 

"We think it would be a great alliance that would make the project stronger."

Tilston-Redican emphasized his and Till's desire to keep the pianos accessible to everyone.

"We want to figure out how we can support each other's projects and make sure there are more pianos in Vancouver and the surrounding municipalities," he said.

Music for all

Musician Karen Hefford hopes to see more of the instruments in parks and on streets. 

When the classically-trained pianist encountered a public piano in Vancouver's City Square Shopping Centre, she sat down to play a couple of tunes.

The White Rock native first saw public pianos in France's subway stations during a university exchange.

"There aren't many spaces where professional, amateur and beginner musicians can all interact together and share music," she said.

"Here, anyone can sit down and give it a try."

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