Pittsburgh Piano Day literally drives music to the city
Peter Stumpf is Pittsburgh’s “piano man.”
They will strap an 800-pound, seven-foot concert semi-grand Steinway & Sons “836” piano, valued at over $100,000, to an open-bed trailer. Then they’ll zip around the city.
The plan is to drive Saturday into Mt. Lebanon at 10 a.m., the Hill District at 1 p.m. and by PNC Park on the North Shore at 6 p.m. At the Hill District, they will stay parked for a while outside the former Crawford Grill, where some of the city’s premier jazz musicians will perform. Former Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris is scheduled to be there.
On Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., the piano will make its way to Market Square for open play, where everyone is invited to perform. A sign on the piano will read “Plays Well With Others.” There will be three other locations: Heinz Hall Gardens, PPG Place and River Vue Patio, where musicians will play the pianos.
It’s a complicated process but one that professional piano mover Randy Mangus knows all about, Stumpf said.
“I want to get pianos out and have people see them and hear them and be able to play a top-of-the-line piano,” said Stumpf.
Stumpf created Pittsburgh Piano Day to be part of the annual worldwide Piano Day event, which is usually celebrated on the 88th day of the year — representing 88 keys on a piano. The weather conditions in March in Pittsburgh are unpredictable. He chose August instead.
The event is free.
A piano technician since 1994, Stumpf works for Heinz Hall, the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music, and University of Pittsburgh Music Department.
He owns Pianoburgh, a business that services pianos throughout the region. Stumpf said he hopes to showcase the love for the piano and use the instrument to build community.
Fort Pitt Piano and Modern Piano will be supplying pianos.
Stumpf has been playing the piano for 50 years. He said that over time, you develop a relationship to this instrument. He compared it to a pearl: “If you give it 50 years, you have something.
“I want to re-awaken the indigenous music that was in those streets in the Hill District and the North Side and Mt. Lebanon,” he said. “Pittsburgh used to be known as piano city.
“This is a little crazy, I know. But it is so worthwhile,” he said. Music “is totally sharable. It brings joy. It’s universal.”
Joining Stumpf on this journey are two CMU students. Madison Ogburn serves as general director; Gino Mollica is director of artist relations.
Ogburn, of South Carolina, began playing the piano at a young age but stopped for a time. She became reacquainted with it when she met Stumpf.
“Piano Day helps bring music back to the hearts and minds of people of Pittsburgh,” she said. “I fell in love with what Peter was doing and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Mollica, of Uniontown, said his interest in music is more as an opera singer than a piano player, but that the beauty of a piano will bring so many people together.
“I love that we will have performers of all ages – from accomplished musicians to those just learning to play,” he said. “We will have children who are 3 years old to someone in their 90s playing on a seven-foot Steinway.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .