Pianos Crusaders: 6 Questions With Play it Forward
Who are the good folk behind TPC’s piano adoption?
Meet Play It Forward, a trio of self-described piano nerds who’ve made it their personal mission to bring music to public spaces all across our sunny island.
In 2015, arts manager Jean Hair teamed up with her friends – artist Billy Soh and architect Lee Yan Chang – to embark on a project to refurbish unused pianos, place pairs of them in public, and encourage passers-by to bond over music.
Since then, Play It Forward has restored over 20 pianos, transformed over 16 locations, and have had their pianos played by thousands of people.
What are the origins of the street piano movement, and how is Play It Forward a distinct project?
“Public pianos give people a platform to come together. But the idea of placing pianos in public is not completely original,” Yan Chang explains. “There are overseas projects where pianos have been placed on the streets. But for us it’s unique because we put two pianos together.”
“We want to encourage people to jam together,’ he adds. “When there’s only one piano available, there’s a tendency to be a bit shy. But with two pianos, it’s more comfortable for you to just join in spontaneously. We’ve seen it happen: Random strangers getting to know each other, and making music with each other.”
Why go through so much trouble to make music available to the public?
If there’s one thing that connects the Play It Forward team, it’s their shared love for music.
“Music reminds me that some things in life are intuitive and need to be experienced with the heart,” Jean says. “In a time and age where everything is increasingly judged as black and white, right or wrong, music – in its myriad interpretations – reminds us that sometimes we have to be open and listen, even if something sound different to our ears.”
“I heard of friends who’ve been throwing away pianos and I thought it was such a waste,” she adds. “I wondered if the pianos could be put to better use: given to people who cannot afford them, or shared with the public.”
How is Play It Forward’s project supported?
“This project comes under the URA Favourite Place program, and they have some funding that covers logistics like the tuning and moving of the pianos,” Yan informs me. “But there are some costs that we’re still absorbing ourselves.”
“When it first started, we initially paid for a lot of the logistics ourselves,” Billy adds. “After 2 years, there’s now a community that approaches us and wants to host the pianos, and are willing to sponsor [some costs for this project].”
“GuocoLand has been the first private sector entity to approach us so far, and they’ve been really supportive during the entire process of adopting these pianos.”
What’s one heartwarming story the Play It Forward has encountered while embarking on this project?
“When it comes to music, there are no strangers,” Yan Chang says. “On our Instagram, there are lots of videos of people coming together to make music spontaneously.”
“We had a parent who wrote to us on Facebook. Initially, she wasn’t sure if her child was truly interested in music, but when she saw for herself how the child approached the piano that we placed in the open, how she loved pressing the piano keys, it made her truly realise how much in love with music her child could potentially be.”
Where are the pianos located? When do I get to play them?
The pianos are currently located at Guoco Tower’s Urban Park, just in front of Blue Lotus restaurant, and have been made available to the public 24/7. If you’re looking to tinkle the ivories or show off your mastery of a Chopin etude, you can start playing them from the evening of 4th February onwards.
Unveiling of Two Pianos @ Guoco Tower
Pianovers will be unveiling Two Pianos at Guoco Tower on the 4th of February. First 50 Pianovers who come will each get a $10 voucher kindly given out by Guoco Tower. Voucher is valid at any outlet in Guoco Tower. Terms and Conditions apply.
Find out more here.