Friday, August 23, 2013

One Down...and Nine to Go

Well, it's here!

In fact...it arrived two days ahead of schedule. (If you're a regular of YouTube and you've been following the world's street-piano scene, you've probably seen videos of it already.)

I'm talking about the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area serving as the world's 34th metro area to host that international phenomenon, Luke Jerram's "Play Me, I'm Yours."

Yesterday, the ten street pianos set up for the Omaha Metro were installed in as many public places.

And those passersby watching crews from Omaha's Transfer 88 just as quickly got their fingers on those keys once the pianos were anchored into place.

This morning, the Omaha Creative Institute and the "Play Me, I'm Yours" organization got together to host a community event that served as the official kickoff for the local exhibition of "PMIY." This kickoff event took place at Memorial Park, the landmark on the other side of the main campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Lots and lots and lots and lots of work goes into every "Play Me" project...and OCI executive director Susan Thomas thanked a planeload of people, especially her fellow OCI staff members, the "Play Me" crew (represented by Sally Reay, AKA "Sally Street Piano"), the local government officials who okayed the project, those whose financial contributions helped bring the project to America's 58th-ranked metropolitan area, and the artists who decorated the seven older uprights (including the one pictured; it's right there at Memorial Park), two spinets, and the lone studio piano.

And then...the music began. (Oops...I mean it resumed.)  

The first pianists to get a crack at the park's century-old H.P. Nelson upright- during today's community event, that is- were students and instructors from the Omaha Conservatory of Music. (One memorable duet- by Anne and Yulia, and I hope I've got their names right- made in onto www.youtube.com.)


Omaha City Councilmember Pete Festersen got into the act; he sat down and played a little bit of that Mannheim Steamroller favorite, "Fresh Aire."


Next, five members of the Omaha-based Ballet Nebraska danced around the old upright while one of the accompanists for the troupe played. (Check that out on www.youtube.com, too!)

The good-sized crowd also heard from a local legend, a saloon pianist named Jim Snyder. And his infectious brand of boogie-woogie playing made it onto- you guessed it- www.youtube.com.
 

I got a chance to go up following Jim. [Nope...my ragtime version of "Do Re Mi" (from "The Sound of Music," not the one from Lee Dorsey) didn't make it to YouTube at this writing. But I still had lots of fun.] 

Basically, after that, Jim, a young pianist named J.D. Mossberg, two teenage girls and their younger brother, and I traded turns at the piano.

Also, I met back up with another local ivory tickler, the California-born Steven Raphael. (I hadn't seen Steven since the early 2000s, about the time he had a show on public-access TV right here in America's 43rd largest city...not counting the suburbs.)

Man, Steven and I had a good, good conversation as we talked about old times and caught up with each other.  

Steven sent me an email last year about pursuing help from the "PMIY" folks rather than setting up a local street-piano exhibition Denver style.

He knew the right route to making Omaha and Bellevue just the second and third sizable Nebraska cities (after Kearney) to put at least one piano out there in a street for passersby to play. 

By the way...in Denver, you can find a dozen spinets and older uprights lining the Mile High City's 16th Street Mall. And they're out there much of the year- a real departure from the way Luke, Sally, and Co. do things.

Still, for us here in Karrin Allyson's and Buddy Miles' birth city, the way Luke, Sally, and Co. do things is better than nothing at all. Way better.

Having a ball during the early going of the Omaha Metro's "Play Me, I'm Yours," and I'm looking forward to coming back to Memorial Park tomorrow morning to not only get some playing in...but also to listen to other pianists of one skill level or another. [And I'll also be back tomorrow night to listen to- and share- stories about each other's musical journeys (and stories about Memorial Park).] 

Here's the rest of my schedule:

8-27-2013: Aksarben Village's Stinson Park, 9:00-11:00 AM
8-31-2013: Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs, IA, 9:00 AM-12:00 Noon
9-1-2013: ConAgra Plaza, 1:00-3:00 PM; Lewis and Clark Landing, 4:00-6:00 PM
9-2-2013: Tree of Life Sculpture, 9:00-11:00 AM; Fontenelle Forest, Bellevue, NE, 1:00-3:00 PM
9-3-2013: Rockbrook Village Shopping Center, 9:00-11:00 AM
9-7-2013: Village Pointe Shopping Center, 1:00-4:00 PM (alternate date: 9-8-2013, 4:00-6:00 PM)
9-8-2013: Florence Park, 1:00-3:00 PM

If you live here in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area (or are visiting), check out our "Play Me" street pianos. And if you'd like to learn more about Luke Jerram's claim to fame, just visit www.streetpianos.com. And if you'd like to see what we're doing in the River City and environs, log on to http://omahapianos.com.  

I'm Jim Boston, and thanks for reading this blog!

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