Richardson: Art pianosWritten by Rachel Richardson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, I attended a fundraising workshop at the Downtown Library presented by the Center for Nonprofit Resources. The training was very worthwhile and I learned some really valuable things about philanthropic giving. However, the thing that has stuck with me most vividly from that morning is solid evidence of my inability to focus on anything nonmusical when something musical is nearby.
On my way into the training, I passed by an art piano. I’m sorry, what? Did you say “art piano”? And to say that I passed by it is not entirely true. What I actually did was to circle around it and grin at it. I may have even talked to it and made little happy noises at it, thus making passersby uncomfortable, I’m sure. I even took pictures of it with my new fancy-schmancy phone. Are you ready for this? I even snuck back out of the training 20 minutes in because I needed close-up pictures and could not concentrate until I had them. This might be an illness.
Ask my colleague Rebecca Facey if I can listen to a word she says when we’re having lunch at Michael’s Bakery on the East Side while that wonderful man is playing jazz standards on the piano by the door. Her answer would probably be, “Only after she names that tune.” A room with a piano in it is an extra-special place. Particularly art pianos, which have been brought to us through a program by the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Society. Thanks to this program these special places are all over Toledo. And thanks to this magical town that has peopled itself with talent-oozing citizens, there is usually someone around who knows how to play. My campaign to tell the world about the immeasurable creative force that is Toledo extends far beyond visual art.
There are musicians everywhere! And they are each contributing to the atmosphere of uniqueness and free expression that makes Toledo such a wonderful place to live. A lucky patron is one who happens to be at the Glass City Café when Ben Langlois gets the itch to play a couple of tunes on the Mardi Gras piano. Even One Government Center, a place that tends to make me a little nervous, is softened by the beautiful art piano in the corner of the main lobby. A little bird even told me that there is a man who works in Government Center who routinely comes to the piano on afternoons when he takes a break from his position in the city taxation department and plays softly and soothingly. My guess is that he feels very fortunate to have that creative outlet right there in his workplace, but imagine how pleasant that must be to encounter as just a person walking through.
During the summer, I fantasized about installing speakers in all of the trees in
Downtown so people walking around during the day would have a soundtrack to travel by. A lofty goal, I realize. It would have taken a lot of work to convince the city to help me out with this particular plan and I’m already bugging them enough with that whole domestic violence thing. Besides, we’ve got all of these pianos! The same County Administrator Bird who told me about the pianist who enriches the space in Government Center for himself and so many other Toledoans, mentioned that the building managers are considering removing that particular piano. My heart cracked at the very notion. Why on earth would anyone remove music from a place? My dad got me a tchotchke a few years ago that is a small, framed stitching in fabric that says, “Without music, life is a journey through a desert.” It’s on the windowsill in my kitchen and I look at it when I do the dishes. It never occurred to me that this wasn’t common knowledge.
It is moments like this when I swell with gratitude that I have this platform to say openly and to whomever is making this decision, please don’t take the art piano out of One Government Center. That would be a very un-Toledo thing to do.
Rachel Richardson is an activist, musician, co-founder and co-director of Independent Advocates, and a product of Toledo, Ohio. E-mail her at email@example.com.