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It is somewhat well known that Portland is home to a unique and vibrant music scene. Musicians flock to Portland to experience the inclusive and collaborative environment. So when you spend a little bit of time downtown, you’re likely to find many street musicians on the corners of well-traveled thoroughfares. From violins to guitars, street musicians are a fixture, rain or shine.
And if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you might come across Megan McGeorge. She can sometimes be found among those sharing their music with passersby — with one not-so-small distinction. McGeorge’s instrument of choice is a piano.
“It’s kind of hard that the instrument I really love is really big and heavy,” says McGeorge. “I could use a keyboard, or something like that, but it just wouldn’t be the same.”
And so, with a little help from her friends, McGeorge hauls a full-sized studio piano to a favorite busking spot.
That same uncompromising attitude and passion for bringing out the best through her art inspired her to start Piano! Push Play! a few years ago. McGeorge’s organization has two main objectives: to give young gifted pianists a new way to share their talent with the public and to give the public a chance to experience trained musicianship in settings different from more traditional performance venues.
“I want to be an advocate for music in general and … I want to just find more ways for people to experience live musicians and trained musicianship outside a concert hall,” McGeorge explains.
For the past few summers, thanks to a generous arrangement from Portland Piano Co., McGeorge has planned and executed a series of impromptu piano performances on the rather complicated street corner where Burnside, 13th Avenue and the beginning of Stark Street converge. The resulting traffic pattern creates an interesting stage-like location where McGeorge and friends play music they have written, classical compositions and improvisational works.
“People think it’s kind of weird; people will often walk by with strange looks on their faces like they’re confused. But then they usually hang around and listen like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, I get it’ before they move on. Sometimes when you look up at the office windows you can see employees taking a break and sitting at an open window to listen. I think that’s pretty cool,” says McGeorge.
Portland Piano Co. recently moved locations from their showroom on Southwest 13th to the Tiffany Center a little bit further away on Southwest 14th Avenue. The previous location made it a relatively straightforward haul up to Burnside, but the change is not stopping McGeorge. She’s planning to continue to hold mini-concerts at other locations in the city with other pianos that she plans to “rescue” from people who aren’t using them or who are looking to get rid of them.
“Every piano deserves a good home,” she says.
Starting on July 22, McGeorge’s Piano! Push Play!, in cooperation with The Snowman Foundation, will be placing four pianos on four different street corners around Portland’s westside. The pianos will stay there for 12 days with the goal of giving the public a chance to play the pianos freely.
“We believe that simply by exposing people to the visual and auditory experience of a fellow human playing the piano, we are reminded of how magical and vital music is to our community,” says Michael Allen Harrison, founder of The Snowman Foundation. “Thanks to a partnership with our organization, and our generous sponsors Portland Piano Company and West Coast Piano Moving and Storage, we are able to bring together the components of community, kids and music to the streets of Portland.”
Piano! Push Play! Pop-Up Locations
July 22-August 2, 2013
- Pioneer Courthouse Square - Kick-off Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony and Performances - 5 p.m.
- Rose Festival/Salmon Street Springs @ SW Salmon & Naito Parkway, Tom McCall Waterfront Park
- 13th & West Burnside, near American Apparel
- Saturday Market, near Bill Naito Legacy Fountain