Pianos for People connects people who need pianos with pianos who need people
Through a combination of piano restoration, music lessons, and excellent teaching, Pianos for People has created a thriving space for aspiring artists and their families. Pianos for People knows the power of music to build self-esteem, and community, and with the help of the Incarnate Word Foundation, they’re reaching more families than they ever dreamed.
Pianos for People was awarded one of three $10,000 grants in IWF’s 2016 Marketplace of Ideas program. This funding provided a pilot grant for a special one-week multi-arts performance camp called Turn Up Your Talent – a camp that has continued and now expanded. The grant process was just the beginning of the Pianos for People/IWF partnership.
“Pianos for People has several pillars of community service,” explained Sheena Duncan, Executive Director. “One, we provide free pianos to qualifying individuals; two, we offer free piano lessons and workshops at our Cherokee Street and Ferguson locations, and we offer six weeks of summer camps for almost 200 youth during those critical out-of-school hours. The IWF grant helped get the summer camp program started,” said Sheena.
In 2017, IWF awarded Pianos for People an operational grant, which supports the Cherokee Street piano lessons, workshops, and adult classes throughout the school year. Two years ago, a satellite school opened in the Ferguson area, and that program continues to expand and reach deeper into the community, including the introduction of a summer camp program this past summer.
Awarded the 2017 Arts Innovator of the Year distinction by the Arts & Education Council, Pianos for People is a growing and valuable resource to their local community. For many families, piano lessons are simply out of reach. While talent and desire may be there, financial resources are hard to find. Free lessons, given by accomplished, professional instructors, have become the basis of a “community center” atmosphere, said Sheena. “It’s beautiful to see parents working together in support of our programs,” she explained. “Our fourth birthday is coming up, and I wouldn’t have thought we’d grow so much, and so quickly. In the early days, we thought we might have around 40 students participating in lessons and workshops. Today, we have 140-plus! We’ve renovated every possible space” to accommodate the growing student body and piano restoration. In almost 6 years, Pianos for People has delivered over 240 refurbished pianos to new homes and community organizations, and many of the student families have now received a piano in their home, ensuring better engagement and success.
Looking ahead, Sheena hopes to expand the number of private lessons and welcome more families to Pianos for People. “We want to deepen our roots in the community,” Sheena said. “Rather than extend ourselves too broadly, we want to continue to support families” through quality music education programs.
“Our students know that we care, and they know they belong at Pianos for People.”