“A hundred years ago, almost every household in America had a piano,” mused Kenneth Rexrode, the driving force behind the Piano Project, a local organization that aims to pair unwanted acoustic pianos with new homes in elementary schools and other public places.
Henri Herbert, "Henri's boogie" @ Heathrow Airport
“Back then there were 300,000 instruments being manufactured every year. Now it’s down to less than 24,000.”
Rexrode got the idea for the Piano Project from watching a YouTube video featuring French pianist Henri Herbert rocking a boogie-woogie performance on a public access instrument at Heathrow Airport in London. “I was inspired by the idea of having pianos in public places in San Diego,” said Rexrode.
“Since then, the idea has evolved into what we’re doing with the public schools, which makes these donations even more meaningful. The problem wasn’t getting the pianos for free — I put the idea out there — and it turns out that there is a plethora of instruments that people would love to find a good home for.”
Rexrode started out as a one-man operation, one piano at a time, but soon realized he needed help.
“The real challenge was managing it. It was more than one person could handle, so I brought on Kimberly Paige as a program director and I have this fellow who is retired from the Army with a truck and trailer who helps me transport the instruments. We try to move about three pianos every time we make a run, from the donation site to a warehouse owned by the Chula Vista Elementary School District.”
This partnership turned out to be fortuitous for the organization on many levels.
“We didn’t have a place to store the instruments while we found a new home for them,” says Rexrode. “Now we have a partner with the school district. They have 47 elementary schools, and our goal is to present each school with a piano by the end of the year. That will serve almost 30,000 students. They have invested in hiring music teachers but they really lack the instruments, so this is a good fit.”
There’re a lot of practical advantages for both parties in this donation arrangement, Rexrode maintains.
“There’s a ton of instruments that are not being used, and they are very expensive to get rid of. Just moving one can cost about 500 bucks. Even taking one to the dump may cost a few hundred because they are so heavy.”
Looking to donate? Email [email protected].