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Davis, California

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

City of Davis announces return of public piano program

“In the Key of Davis” public pianos reappear in Davis after a long hiatus


By RIDDHI PURANIK — city@theaggie.org


The city of Davis relaunched its public piano program, In the Keys of Davis, which features six pianos placed around town that are part of a public arts program run by the city of Davis. 

The city of Davis website outlines the locations of all six pianos. You can find them at Davis Commons (500 First Street), Davis Food Co-Op (620 G Street), Hunt-Boyer Plaza on the corner of Second and E Street and Mary L. Stevens Davis Branch Library (315 E. 14th Street). 

New additions to the collection include pianos at Manetti Shrem Art Museum (245 Old Davis Road, UC Davis campus) and at Central Park on the corner of Third and C Street. 

The new piano at Central Park was designed by Birch Lane School’s sixth-grade teacher Amy George’s students. The website states that the students were inspired to design the piano while conducting an in-depth study of Yosemite National Park. 

In the Key of Davis is supported by the City of Davis Arts & Cultural Affairs Program, and according to the city of Davis website, it was founded by two local teenagers, Isabelle and Hailey Shapiro. Laura Shapiro, organizer of the In the Key of Davis program and mother to Isabelle and Hailey Shapiro, elaborated on the inspiration behind the program. 

“The Davis program was started after my family traveled to Seattle and Vancouver and saw public pianos in those towns,” Shapiro said. “My daughters both play the piano and really enjoyed playing those pianos. It was so fun to surprisingly happen upon the pianos on our vacation. Our daughters thought Davis would be a perfect town to have a similar program because it values art and it is dry all summer so we wouldn’t have to worry about the pianos getting rained on like in the cities we visited. When we got back, they wrote a proposal to the city and the city approved the program and agreed to help sponsor it.” 

Shapiro said that her family hoped the program would foster community and interest in the arts. 

“Our hope was that it would encourage community building and allow people to feel that rush of excitement of discovering a new beautiful piano in an outdoor space,” Shapiro said.

In a press release, former mayor Gloria Partida recognized the importance of the program. 

 “The city recognizes the social and emotional health benefits of making and listening to live music,” Partida said in the press release. “The pianos help create a positive space to bring the community together.”

Shapiro talked about the nature of the organization. Since it is a volunteer-run organization, they appreciate people keeping an eye out on the pianos and using them appropriately so they do not get destroyed. 

The community’s response to the pianos has been very positive. Shapiro mentioned some of the positive effects that access to the public pianos has made. 

“Little kids getting exposure to a piano, people being able to practice when they don’t have access to their own piano, people being able to show off musical ability and impromptu jam sessions,” Shapiro said. “Kids have a sense of pride in creating something for the community. Some of the pianos have been painted by local artists or people associated with the Manetti Shrem museum so there is always a local connection.”


Written By RIDDHI PURANIKcity@theaggie.org