Denver's "Your Keys to the City" Piano & Art Public Exhibit

Denver’s “Your Keys to the City” Piano & Art Public Exhibit

I was chomping down a buffalo burger at an eatery in downtown Denver on Tuesday when a hand-painted, upright piano sitting on the curb caught my eye.

My heart jumped, because I thought Denver may be one of the American stops for Luke Jerram’s word-of-mouth marketing campaign, “Play me, I’m Yours,” and I wanted to be part of it. The European version of street pianos is about inviting the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.

Denver’s piano WOM campaign, “Your Keys to the City,” is a similar tune, but in a different key. The Denver Downtown Partnership describes their 10-piano public art exhibit this way:

“The concept is designed to encourage residents, employees and tourists in Downtown Denver to interact with their public spaces in new and spontaneous ways—while contributing to the vibrancy within our urban core. We want the public to be able to sit down and crank out a tune!”

Young Brazilian Plays Mozart on the Streets of Denver from on Vimeo.

This morning, coming out of Niketown on 16th street, I was tickled when I tripped across this young Brazilian tickling the ivories with Bach. So I whipped out my iPhone to capture his performance on video, and I made a request for something from my favorite composer. “How about a little Mozart?” With a smile as wide as the keyboard, he happily sat back down and began to play away.

I was struck by the power of this street piano WOM campaign as tourists, street folk, locals and international visitors (check out the Nigerians walking in the background on their way to Forever Living Product’s International Super Rally; the reason we were in town) all experienced this wonderful music at a most surprising time and place.

Parker plays a little "Linus & Lucy" for the locals

Parker plays a little “Linus & Lucy” for the locals

Perhaps I should consider bringing this musical concept back to Phoenix. I’d embellish it, though, with an online social media campaign more in line with it’s overseas cousin, that would include:

  • Get an indie pianist like Ben Folds to launch the campaign as he cranks out tunes from a vaudevillian upright outside a downtown pub and stream it live on the web
  • Tap Google maps to pinpoint the piano locations around the Valley of the Sun
  • Invite the community to post photos of their friends and family with their favorite pianos
  • Host a YouTube video contest with the best one-minute performances posted by anyone who wants to play
  • Take bids (donations) from local companies to have an art piano temporarily grace the outside of their establishments
  • Sell the pianos at the end of the exhibit to raise money for Ear Candy, one of Phoenix’ finest music charities for kids

What other ideas can you offer to make the Phoenix street pianos campaign a big hit?