Thus far, I've had a chance to not only get some playing in, but also to hear so many other people- of one skill level or another- play those keys.
Yesterday morning, I went back to the same site where "PMIY" was locally launched...and I hooked back up with Steven Raphael and J.D. Mossberg.
The 33-year-old J.D. was already playing when I actually arrived at 9:30 AM (Central time). And at that moment, joggers would periodically run through the park.
And J.D. and I would start to trade tunes until Steven came back to Memorial Park.
Steven brought a friend along this time: George, a veteran of Iowa's Old-Time Country, Bluegrass, and Folk Music Festival and Contest (that event's new title).
George and I had a chance to reminisce about the event that Bob and Sheila Everhart put on at this time every year (matter of fact, this year's version starts tomorrow at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in Le Mars, IA, the festival's home since 2008)...and about two of its best-known performers.
Pat Boilesen- another Old-Time Country Festival veteran (she's from Albion, NE)- would really love "Play Me, I'm Yours." She and another longtime OTCF performer, Sarah Davison (out of Braddyville, IA; she's now the leader of the country band High Road- and she'd love "PMIY," too), won plenty of ragtime piano contests at Bob's and Sheila's shindig during the 1990s and 2000s.
Well, George gave me a couple of teachable moments yesterday: First of all, he really enjoyed Pat's version of "Red Wing," and he wanted to know if I could play it.
At least I couldn't do "Red Wing" the way people recognize it.
So he showed me how he heard the Kerry Mills piece...and a light went on in my head.
And I figured: "'Red Wing' starts out in a way like 'American Patrol.' As long as I work off that, I'll be fine."
I tried it again...and got through "Red Wing" in better shape.
George's other teachable moment came because I missed out on a chance to have Lori (and her husband Tim) actually touch a piano key...one of the very reasons Luke Jerram invented the whole operation.
The BIGGEST reason for "Play Me," of course, is to get people interacting.
And some really powerful interactions happened during the time George, Steven, and I hung out together at Memorial Park.
Scott, Michelle, and their son Patrick stopped by to check out the roughly 100-year-old H.P. Nelson upright. (The threesome had already been to a few other "Play Me" installations in the Omaha Metro.)
Patrick (above) masterfully played a classical number, and then Michelle (top) did the theme from "Terms of Endearment."
Lexi wanted to take piano lessons...but her mom, Angie, kept putting the kibosh to that.
But then, Angie sat down at ol' H.P. (top) to play the one song she knew: "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater."
Next thing we knew, Angie (above) was teaching Lexi to play the tune.
And Lexi was nailing it. (In fact, she gave "Peter, Peter" her own kind of beat.)
Larae (a one-time teacher) got her daughter Shauna (man, I hope I'm spelling these names right!) to duet with her in a bit of improvisation.
Before that, Larae was strictly a solo act...and a darned good one.
Well, that wasn't all...and when I come back, I'll show you what happened that night...when a storyteller came to the park.