GOSHEN—The first “The Keys of Goshen” unveiling took place on June 11 alongside the first “Annual Chalk of the Town Sidewalk Chalk Festival.” Despite the rain, families turned up for the events, which included a walking dinosaur and a chess club event.
The five upright pianos that had been in need of some tender loving care, i.e. repair, tuning and decorating, were unveiled by Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey who initiated the project in order to make pianos available to the community. He was inspired by Luke Jerram, the international artist and creator of ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’, a public piano initiative that has inspired 1,500 public pianos in over 50 cities across the globe.
“Other large cities have done it and I saw it years ago when I was in Denver, so I thought ‘Why don’t we bring that here?’ We’ve been doing a lot of revitalization things in Goshen recently, with a lot of community groups getting involved,” said Roddey.
Goshen can now be counted as one of the places around the world where professionals and amateurs alike can take advantage of the warm weather and a well tuned instrument to bring music to the community through impromptu public performances. The pianos will remain outdoors until October, and volunteers will take care to cover them up in case of inclement weather.
Each of the five pianos was donated and funds were raised so that they could be repaired and painted. The Goshen Art League is comprised of 72 artists, nine of whom vied for the enviable chance to paint a piano. They had to submit images of their proposed design, which were judged by a special committee.
Julie Salzberg, the president of the Goshen Art League, was chosen as one of the artists. She painted one of the five instruments in a range of pale blue colors with a magical storybook theme titled “Vibrations of the Muse.”
“The fairies that are depicted on the piano are meant to inspire. They are the playful side of a person, and I’m hoping that whoever will sit at this piano will be inspired to play a beautiful song,” said Salzberg.
On Saturday, Roddey led the procession, unveiling each instrument one by one with singer-songwriter Alec Phillips playing various tunes to mark the occasion.
The last piano to be unveiled was painted by young artist Mitchel Saler, who said that he took inspiration from the local farmers market. On one side he depicted vegetables that are grown in the famous Goshen black dirt, and on the other side he paid homage to the local architecture and scenery.
The rain momentarily interrupted some of the activities but lent the chalk artworks that were drawn as part of the “Annual Chalk of the Town Sidewalk Chalk Festival” an altogether different quality. The lines were blurred, yet retained much of the clever compositions into which some of the kids put considerable thought.
Kids also had the chance to get involved in the Chess Program run by Goshen Parks and Recreations. Gray Than, who runs the Chess Program, said that everyone between the ages of four and 99 years old are welcome to join the free program.
“Chess is very good for children to learn, and we encourage families to join,” said Than, whose five year old daughter Eliza, alongside two other five year-olds, was due to participate in a chess tournament the following weekend.
The adults might say that the unveiling of the pianos was the highlight of the day, yet the kids who stayed until the end might argue that the Tyrannosaurus Rex that showed up to close the festivities was the star of the festival.
The uncanny dinosaur replica came from Mad Science Camp and took to the streets heading for the closest piano—the one with the veggies, for a photo opportunity with a difference. It even tried to lip-sync some of the songs.
Roddey was happy to see “The Keys of Goshen” come to fruition and was looking forward to the upcoming July 4 festivities when the pianos will undoubtedly be put to great use again.
In the meantime, for any visitors to Goshen, if you feel like playing a tune and you know how, just do it and you might find yourself playing for an eager audience.
That’s what the pianos are there for, after all.