“Free outdoor concert in Portland today!” On July 25, 2016, Weird Al Yankovic tweeted a photo of himself playing a bright purple piano (decorated with Prince and Bowie graphics, no less!) on a heavily trafficked corner of East Burnside Street.
The Grammy Award-winning artist is one of thousands of folks who have taken advantage of Piano Push Play, a local initiative to fill Portland’s public spaces with dozens of the instruments every July and August. The results? On any given summer day in the Rose City, you’re likely to find a teen skateboarder playing “Für Elise” at a bus stop or a sweaty hiker wowing crowds with a Mozart sonata at the top of Mt. Tabor.
Founded by Megan McGeorge in 2012, Piano Push Play invites local artists to transform old, donated pianos into whimsical works of art. Each instrument is named after an influential female musician and emblazoned with the words “Please Play Me” before being transported to a temporary home in a local park, plaza or food cart pod. By distributing the pianos across the city, McGeorge hopes to give musicians of all ages and abilities a space to showcase their skills. After they’ve done their time on the streets, the pianos are donated to schools and community centers to keep the music flowing all year.