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Campus Quirks: Despite the presence of pianos, campus feels quiet

Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013

Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 22:01

Whether you are studying in the old Chocolate Bar in McElroy, walking into Eagle’s Nest, or wandering through the freshman hangout that is the O’Connell House, you may or may not have noticed a large instrument waiting patiently for someone to stop and play a song. For those who haven’t noticed: throughout the Boston College campus, various pianos are found, but often ignored, in unexpected places.

It is no surprise that Lyons Hall, home of the music department, has its wealth of black and white keys. On the building’s fourth floor are a number of pianos, each located in a private room. While those officially involved with the music department have priority for the use of these pianos, these practice studios are actually available to all BC faculty, staff, and students. Much more interesting are the pianos located in places where many students gather—pianos situated so that students can play not only for their own enjoyment, but for the enjoyment of others as well. There are three pianos in McElroy Commons alone: one in the old Chocolate Bar, one sitting in the hallway behind Eagle’s Nest, and one in Eagle’s itself.

I cannot help but notice that, this year, these McElroy pianos seem especially quiet compared to years past. It wasn’t always this way, especially with Dennis Carr, BC ’11, the man fondly remembered as the “Piano Guy.” For four years, five days a week, the Piano Guy filled a bustling lunchtime Eagle’s Nest with lovely song. He generated such a following that his final performance was a well-attended, hour-long event, catching the attention of local media outlets and even The Boston Globe. Just google “Boston College Piano Guy,” and you will find articles and YouTube videos dedicated to the campus favorite. (A video of Carr’s final performance, “Your Song,” by Elton John, and of the roaring applause that followed his final bow, is a must see.)  

Now that Carr is a retired Eagle’s Nest entertainer, it seems that the BC pianos with the best chance of being played are those behind closed doors. A piano on the second floor of 90 St. Thomas More Hall is kept in a small room with windows in places that do not reveal the person playing. According to resident Pat Genovese, A&S ’15, students living in the building appreciate the instrument. Genovese plays the dorm’s piano himself, “probably twice a week,” he said. “I’m one of a few regulars. The room is pretty much soundproof, but people who walk by will stop and listen.” When asked if he would play in public, Genovese said he probably would not.

I don’t blame the pianists of BC for preferring to play without an audience. I happen to play the piano myself, and I have no plans to put on a show for everyone anxiously waiting in line for their Tuscan chicken. Still, I think it is sad that some of these pianos are so rarely used, especially when they have the potential to bring so much joy to our student community, here or elsewhere. Call me a hypocrite, but I wish people would step up and work together to try to fill the shoes the Piano Guy left behind. Until then, all we have are empty shoes and some classy campus furniture with a harmonious potential that unfortunately seems too often forgotten.


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