30 Pianos in Less Than 3 Weeks…Elson Takes the Play Me I’m Yours Challenge

Maybe you saw them.

From April 12 through May 3, there were thirty pianos installed along high-traffic pedestrian corridors in Los Angeles County.  From the bustle of Union Station, to the charm of the Pasadena Playhouse District, to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, thirty pianos, designed and decorated by local artists and community organizations, sat right on the streets for everyone to play as they say fit.  The “Play Me I’m Yours” public art exhibit has toured the world since 2008.  It came to L.A. these past weeks in celebration of acclaimed conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra music director.  You can see the location of all the pianos on this map.

But where most saw an interesting piece of public art, or a chance to entertain the masses by tickling the ivory, one Streetsblogger saw a challenge.   During the three week exhibit, Elson Trinidad traveled to all thirty pianos and performed.  Sometimes he took requests.  Sometimes he came with some songs in mind.  Sometimes, there were puppets.

After the jump is Trinidad’s thoughts on the exhibit and why he felt challenged to run the gauntlet.  Some of the best videos of his street performances will be spread out throughout his commentary.  If you want to hear Elson perform live, his next perfomance just happens to be at the l.A. Streetsblog fundraiser this Friday at the L.A. Eco-Village.

Play Me, I’m Yours – by Elson Trinidad

I heard about Luke Jerram’s “Play Me, I’, Yours” street piano installation a couple years ago.  In the back of my mind I thought, “It would be awesome if it came to Los Angeles.” Next thing I knew it was headed here in April.

When it finally opened, my first thought was, “I’m going to play them all!” As a musician as well as a community activist/geek, it’s as if this thing was made for me. Not only the chance to play music in different communities, but to get to interact with the people that were all drawn together because of these pianos. While playing the pianos, I’ve not only met fellow musicians and music lovers, but encountered everyone from CEOs to homeless people, from kids to the elderly, and people of all races/ethnicities. I loved meeting new people and listening to others play just as much as I did playing the pianos.

Most of these locations were easily accessible by rail, bus, bike or walking. I only drove to maybe five of the 30. I did hit some car trouble and my car was in the shop during half of the installation, but I thought the journey was much more fun when I didn’t drive anyway, so being car-less was hardly a factor. CicLAvia on April 15 and the opening of the Expo Line totally helped.

Lately we’ve spent time reflecting about The Riots in 1992. I think we’ve definitely matured as a city since then. Public, social, interactive events like CicLAvia, Park[ing] Day and the “Play Me, I’m Yours” pianos were never even imaginable here 20 years ago.

My favorite pianos? As far as the location, Union Station and L.A. Live, hands down. As far as playability, it was a toss-up between the California Plaza, City Hall, Vroman’s and Chinatown pianos. As far as sound/tone, the Vroman’s in Pasadena. As far as visual art? That’s tough. I did like the City Hall, USC, Chinatown, Variety Building and Pasadena Conservatory of Music ones.

  • It was so sad this morning…Iolani and I walked by the space previously occupied by the piano at Union Station.  Just a little pile of trash was left behind.  No music, just trash.  

  • The one at UCLA in front of Royce Hall was still there earlier. 

  • Davistrain

    I was hoping the Union Station piano would stay there longer.  Even when I was there around midnight to catch the Ambus to Bakersfield last month, someone was giving it a play.

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