Visitors at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center’s International Plaza are playing a different tune, thanks to the addition of a new piano.
Donated this summer by Debbie Wong ’75, the piano was delivered as part of the center’s Art & Trojan Traditions program, which places art and artifacts throughout the building to enhance the educational experience of the university community.
“This is the piano that I was raised on,” Wong said. “It wasn’t really hard [to part with it], because I get to see it every time I come to campus. It gives me a lot of joy hearing people playing it.”
Ryan Dunek was commissioned to add artistic flourishes to the piano, now adorned with paintings of the International Plaza fountain and Moreton Fig trees. Dunek is the son of Ruby Dunek, a Campus Center ambassador.
The offbeat idea of placing pianos in public places originated with “Play Me, I’m Yours,” an art project started in 2008 by British artist Luke Jerram. Earlier this year, 30 pianos were set up around Los Angeles, including the Santa Monica Pier and LA Live.
“Random people would just sit down and play, and they would actually be accomplished pianists,” Wong said. “It wasn’t people playing chopsticks; we never heard that.”
USC sophomore Andre Vleisides stops to play the piano frequently at the Tutor Campus Center. Though there are other pianos on campus available for students to play, the piano in the plaza is conveniently “right where you go to get food,” said Vleisides, who enjoys the lively atmosphere.
On a recent afternoon, he stopped to tickle the ivories after getting his lunch because he “just needed to get it out.” A member of the USC Trojan Marching Band, Vleisides also plays the trombone and clarinet.
“I like how this piano gives people an opportunity to sit down and play for no reason or just have fun,” Vleisides said. “I play because I love playing. [It’s] not about who’s listening or watching but for the enjoyment.”
Wong’s love of music is what inspired her donation of the family piano.
“[One time, I was] walking by in the morning when there was a facilities guy playing the piano, and he was good,” she said. “It brings me joy that the piano is being played and being useful rather than just sitting in my house collecting dust.”
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