75 pianos to be installed in Boston as part of “Play Me, I’m Yours”

9/18/2013 –  The Huntington News 

Rowena Lindsay, News Correspondent

From Sept. 27 to Oct. 14, Boston will be hosting 75 pianos as part of a live art project called “Play Me, I’m Yours.” The pianos will be placed in public areas all around the Boston area and will give the general public a chance to be street musicians and put their talents on display.

“Boston approached us about having the project come to their city, and Boston has such a great creative reputation that we are very excited about it,” Luke Jerram, the creator of “Play Me, I’m Yours,” said.

The Boston tour stop was organized by the Celebrity Series of Boston, a group that coordinates performing arts events to promote the arts in the community.

“Celebrity Series has done all of the groundwork and organization for the Boston tour and we could not be more appreciative,” Sally Reay, project manager of “Play Me, I’m Yours,” said.

Local artists and community organizations from Boston and the surrounding towns were commissioned by Celebrity Series to decorate the pianos. The design of each piano will be unique, but they will all be inscribed with the simple instruction: Play Me, I’m Yours.

Among the 75 pianos is a baby grand piano to commemorate the 1,000th street piano in the tour’s history, and the first ever baby grand.

Artistic entities throughout Boston will be sponsoring the pianos, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Arts Academy and the Office for the Arts at Harvard.

Pianos will be placed in public locations throughout Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline, including the Statehouse, Chinatown, Franklin Park Zoo, South Station and Newbury Street.

Several different events have been organized by Celebrity Series to take place while “Play Me, I’m Yours” is in Boston.

Sept. 29 is Music and Wellness day, when medical musicians and music therapists will perform together at Steinert Hall in Natick. More information can be found at the M. Steinert & Sons website: msteinert.com.  Music Education day on Oct. 6 is dedicated to educators and students passionate about music.

“Play Me, I’m Yours” was started by British artist Luke Jerram, and has been touring internationally since its conception in 2008. In designing this project, Jerram wanted to create something that would bring communities together.

“The project is about breaking down social barriers and forming a sense of community between strangers,” Reay said.

In addition to working as a social experiment, the project creates an outlet for creative expression.

“The pianos provide a blank canvas for the public, kind of like YouTube in a sense,” Jerram said. “It is a place for people to express themselves, and that is a powerful concept.”

As well as transforming the streets through music and delivering unique performances to the public, it provides opportunities for the musicians who participate.

“It turns ordinary and amateur musicians, like myself, into street performers who share their creativity with the public, and promote themselves as musicians,” Jerram said.

Several successful musicians have gotten their start as a result of the street pianos.

Italian pianist Samuele Rossini played one of the pianos during its London tour and was spotted by a producer. He just released his first album.

Eleven-year-old George Harliono gained internet fame as a result of his street performance and was described as a “pint-sized prodigy” by The Sun of London.

People who participate are encouraged to share their own stories, photos and videos of their interactions with the street pianos on the “Play Me, I’m Yours” website.

“Play Me, I’m Yours” was originally commissioned by Birmingham, UK in 2008 and was meant to be a one-time project, but has since been to 35 cities on five continents. Boston is the seventh stop on the tour this year. After Boston, it will be heading to Santiago, Chile and Melbourne, Australia.

“It’s amazing to see the enthusiasm of the public for this awesome project,” Margo Saulnier, project manager for Celebrity Series of Boston’s “Play Me, I’m Yours,” said.

The public installation aims to bring people together in a different way. It’s not an event, carnival or festival, it is simply pianos installed in places where people go every day. But instead of passing by on their way to work or home, they are encouraged to stay awhile, for a memory and experience unlike any other.

“‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ shows the power of music and how it can change people’s lives. One person will be playing and someone who they’ve never talked to will join in, and suddenly you have a duet,” Reay said. “That’s a powerful thing.”