On the corner of Bellevue Square Park sits an old Weber piano. Somebody left it there two summers ago. Musicians and buskers flock to this piano to gather an audience inside the park during the pandemic. Sometimes a famous Toronto celebrity would touch its keys. It’s become a staple to the community.
A journalist researching the piano finally found out the who of the story. The piano was left by Bobby Gadda, a nearby resident and a director at Kensington Centre for Natural Arts and Science. It was free from Craigslist and used to be in a friend’s garage.
“I met a lot of people that came to play the piano there,” Gadda said. “There’s a lot of really talented people that come to play. Some people who are learning, little kids. Every once in a while, you get someone that just slams the keys and makes a lot of noise. Some people told me a few Toronto music celebrities from Blue Rodeo or Barenaked Ladies have played but I haven’t met them in person.”
In Montreal, a street piano initiative began in 2012, which introduces outdoor pianos all over the city, according to the city of Dorval website. Since it was adopted, the project has been growing, with more and more pianos being placed in the greater Montreal region.
Toronto once had a Play Me I’m Yours program, where there were actually many pianos around the city, but it was short-lived.
“It would be great if the city had an official budget to make it an official program,” Gadda said. “It’s not that expensive because the pianos are usually free. You just need to get it tuned up every few months and have someone to keep an eye on it. It can be done with volunteers.”
“Our purpose is to create a community of musicians and create a network for musicians,” said Sid Kashyap, managing admin for the Kensington Market Piano Facebook Page.
The piano gives a chance for those that don’t necessarily have access to an instrument.
“I know a few people who have told me it helped them out having an opportunity to be able to play a nice tuned piano,” Cadda said. “And meet people too, I met some people really nice people who happened to be homeless too but really good at the piano. I’ve learnt a lot of cool techniques from people. It definitely a positive in a lot of people’s lives.”
The Kensington Market piano has survived two winters and is on its last legs. Gadda said he plans to replace the piano soon.