Come Tickle Our Ivories? You did — and thanks!

Published 12:29 am Sunday, May 3, 2015

By Mary James

For the Salisbury Post

Pianos on the public streets? For five months? And anyone can play them 24/7? Won’t they get wet? Vandalized? Stolen? Are you nuts? I probably was. But hearing that the project was amazingly successful in other cities across the U.S. and the world, I was sure our community would embrace the idea. And you have! But “Come Tickle Our Ivories!” could never have happened were it not for the many people who took a leap of faith in supporting me in something they could hardly wrap their heads around. Simple “thank you’s” don’t seem adequate in acknowledging them, but I feel compelled to try.

First, thanks to those who donated their pianos: Bret & Sarah Busby, Larry Graves, Cathy Green, Randy & Mary Padavick, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, David & Lori Watson, and the family of Bill & LaVerne Webb.

Thanks to the art teachers at our seven county high schools — North, South, East, West, Carson, Salisbury, and Henderson — for jumping on board despite their already packed curriculum schedules and energizing their students to decorate the pianos, and putting up with my constant nagging to meet various deadlines. The music teachers and principals were supportive as well. And what back-pats our art students deserve for their incredible creativity, and our music students for their piano-playing talent on opening night!

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kluttz Piano boys Banks and Jonathan for donating their back-breaking labor to haul the pianos from homes to the schools to downtown; Walmart for contributing toward gift cards for decorating supplies; Office Depot (especially Amy Suggs-Harwood) for printing and laminating; Lowe’s for supplying tarps and straps; Rigo & Evelyn Medina for tethering bench legs to pianos so they don’t walk off; Glen Yost and Marietta Smith for donating their incomparable artistic talents; and Roy West for his much appreciated discount on piano tuning. Donnie Moose at Miller David Studios did a splendid job with the posters (but we paid for that)!

Thanks to the generous shop owners who agreed to house the pianos: Textile Products, Anna Lu’s Children’s Consignment & Gifts, Maia’s Fashions, Meroney Theatre, Salisbury Wine Shop, Creative Teaching Aids, and Downtown Salisbury Inc.’s old Empire Hotel. Since the pianos would be protected by overhanging roofs and mostly hidden from view, I desperately wanted an unplayable 8th piano to sit under the clock on the square for display/publicity purposes only. But this could never have happened, and I would have no hair left, without the patience and perseverance of city engineer Wendy Brindle who knew how to navigate the red tape to win state Transportation Department approval.

Since this was a fundraiser benefitting the school art departments as well as our treasured symphony for making this project possible, we would have had nothing to give, after covering expenses, were it not for our monetary sponsors! Thank you SO much to the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Society Board of Directors, Mary Messinger, Dr. Don & Bethany Fortner, my dear husband Will, Edward & Susan Norvell, Colby Cochran, the Wallace family (Mona, Lee, Lane, Whitney & Brannon Williams), Raymond & Kay Coltrain, Bill & Sue Davis, Jane Gamewell, David Hagy, David Post, Dr. Martha West, Karen Alexander, my Catawba Racquet Club tennis buddies, Bob & Sara Cook, Fle Griffith, Karen Hobson, Wayne & Dr. Lynn Moody, Al & Babe Nobles, David & Marianna Swaim, Susan Trivette, and Mayor Paul & Beth Woodson.

Thanks to Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding for allowing me to ambush hapless breakfast attendees with my project brochures; to RowanWorks Executive Director Robert Van Geons and his trusty assistant Robin Rhyne for facilitating my presentation before the Rotary Club and providing names for corporate solicitation; to Gretchen Witt for allowing me the use of the Rowan Public Library’s display window; to the Salisbury Post for its wonderful coverage; to DSI’s Paula Bohland and Mollie Ruf for partnering with me for our May 1st celebratory piano unveiling; to Rose Jones, Justin Dionne, and other 20-30-somethings for their social media savvy in suggesting to this aging flip-phone dinosaur how to publicize this project in the 21st century; and finally, to our Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Society Executive Director Linda Jones for her immeasurable guidance and moral support.

So if you like what you see this year … I’ve already got my pianos for 2016 when you can “Come Tickle Our Ivories!” once again!

Mary James lives in Salisbury.