Old piano brings new life to MUN student centre

It was gathering dust in someone's living room, now it's bringing joy to thousands of people at Memorial University.

Business and Arts NL is installing pianos in public spaces around the province

Piano major Stephen Eckert trying out the new public piano at Memorial University's student centre. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

It was gathering dust in someone's living room, and now it's bringing joy to thousands of people at Memorial University.

A new public piano was unveiled Thursday at the MUN student centre, the latest installed by a group called Business and Arts NL. Executive director Peter Soucy says the pianos are much more than just a piece of furniture.

"It really can transform a location." he said. "The addition of music inspires people, it gives a whole focus to the place that it never had before."

Peter Soucy is the director of collaboration with Business and Arts NL. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Each piano is donated, and sponsored by a local business. Local artists also give the pianos a distinct look, inspired by their new surroundings.

Artist Mark Benson gave this piano a bright, explosive look, reflective of university life, he said. And he doesn't mind if someone spills coffee on his creation.

Artist Mark Benson, who goes by the handle Sois, painted the new public piano at Memorial University. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

"The more dinged up it gets, it's just going to add to it." said Benson. "It's almost like, you see paint on my paints here? I can't help it, it adds character. I feel people might actually be more influenced to sit down and play it, because they have a connection with how visual it looks."

If you'd like to hear the piano in action, watch this uncut performance from virtuoso Stephen Eckert, fourth-year piano performance and composition major at MUN's School of Music.

From living room to food court

For many years, the piano was a cherished part of the Anderson family home.

"The piano has been in my family for almost 60 years." said Catherine Anderson. "My folks played it, my sister played it, my brother played it, I played it and finally our daughter played it. But for the last couple years it's been sitting there, idle. And we were looking for a place for it to go."

Katherine and Aubrey Anderson donated the piano to Business and Arts NL. It had been in Katherine's family for 60 years. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

By giving it away, the Andersons gave the piano a new life

At the unveiling ceremony, musician Mark Bragg had the honour of playing it first. Then, a group of MUN music students took turns tickling the ivories.

Singer-songwriter Mark Bragg gave the inaugural performance on the new public piano. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Eckart said was a thrill to play for free in front of the crowd.

"It feels nicer, it feels like you're providing something that would never have been there otherwise," he said.

Fellow student Stella Hui agreed.

"The barrier between classical music and community disappears a little. And it's really fun that we get to perform for people who are not just in music."

More pianos are coming to places like the Goose Bay airport, and hospitals in Gander and Clarenville. Business and Arts NL hopes to have 15 pianos around the province by the end of 2019.

MUN School of Music student Stella Hui playing the piano. (Zach Goudie/CBC)