My parents have a piano sitting in their living room that hasn’t played a note in a few years, at least. Someone’s always meaning to take lessons again. But it just doesn’t happen. And yet, the piano makes the house feel cozier. It adds personality, even silently.
I’m sure my family isn’t alone. The United States houses about 10 million pianos, according to today’s guest. And some of exist as furniture pieces, more than music machines.
I’m not saying this is the ideal scenario for a piano. Living room accent piece is certainly not the instrument’s purpose. And yet, this the reality of the piano. They’re huge, they’re expensive, they’re investments. You don’t just sell them at a garage sale because little Suzie decided to focus on karate instead of music lessons. And, as I’m learning, looking at the reality of a situation can lead to some pretty interesting ideas.
For example – today’s guest Newell Hill is the founder of nonprofit, that embraces both characteristics of the piano – its musical gifts, and its ‘set piece’ side. In addition to refurbishing old pianos for traditional use, the organization pairs with artists to paint pianos for display in public or in private spaces. This initiative, Pianos on Parade, has sent formerly unused pianos around the United States, to enhance local spots on beaches, in malls, and on street corners.
And the funds from this endeavor goes right back into the original purpose of pianos – giving musically inclined people the opportunity to express themselves.
In today’s episode, we’ll talk about the story behind the nonprofit – how Newell knew he wanted forgo a more traditional career path to help give kids access to pianos, and how Keys for Kids manages to sustain itself almost like a business, while remaining a nonprofit.
Welcome to the Zip.