Christiansburg the place to play

Photo by Marty Gordon
Christiansburg Special Events Coordinator Casey Jenkins sits at the piano in the lobby of the Old Town Mall on Main Street.

Marty Gordon

For years, the town of Christiansburg has been known as the “Place to Play” and, while the reference was to youth athletic events, it’s now the Place to Play… piano.

Last month, when a local church donated the Hobart M. Cable upright with scrollwork music stand, it was placed in the lobby of the Old Town Mall on Main Street.

The idea, according to the town’s public relations specialist, Amy Southall, originated with the Town’s Central Business Committee with the hope of creating a communal space that would foster community engagement.

“The piano was donated by the Christiansburg Presbyterian Church and offers the public a place to play live music. It will hopefully be utilized at future events on Hickok Street as well,” Southall said.

Nearby business owners said people had been asking what the piano was for, so a sign was added last week inviting people to sit down and tickle the ivories.

Pianos in public places are nothing new as ‘pop-up piano’ initiatives have appeared in cities all around the world. Many of them have turned the older musical instruments into works of art – as many as 60 pianos appeared last year in and around the city of Boston.

Christiansburg’s public piano is inspired by the art project “Play Me, I’m Yours” that scattered 15 pianos across England’s industrial city of in 2008. One hundred and forty thousand people played or listened to music from the first Birmingham pianos the Street Pianos website says.

Since then, more than 1,900 street pianos have been placed in 60 cities, which have been played and listened to, it’s thought, by more than 10 million people.

According to a national release, the Street Piano effort is designed to “provoke people into engaging, activating and claiming ownership of their urban landscape.”

The public pianos have become common sight in places like New York City and Boston, where as many as 60 are scattered throughout the metropolis.

Christiansburg’s piano stands at the Old Town Mall adjacent to the Macado’s restaurant and is free to sit down and play.