By Ken Hegan for MSN

Craving a musical fix when you’re in a distant city?

You’ll love this then. Three public pianos have been plunked down in various downtown Vancouver locations.

Here’s a dad teaching his kid to play one such piano. Meanwhile a local roustabout stares enviously at their nifty matching leather jackets:


You’ll find the pianos at:


Location: 1800 Spyglass Place – near the Aquabus ferry terminal


Location: 1 Athletes Way, Creekside Community Recreation Centre in Olympic Village


Location: Robson Park, corner of St. George and Kingsway

Plus a little later this summer, a fourth one will appear on Robson Street’s busy 800 block.

Cool idea, huh?

Creekside-piano-2This public piano project is called Keys to the Streets, for which visitors and Vancouverites can thank student volunteers at CityStudio.

Their mission is to “design and  implement  Greenest  City solutions” and they’ve clearly garnered the support of an arts-friendly city council (and Vancouver’s mayor/pianist Gregor Robertson).

Anyone can play the pianos from July 1st to August 24th this summer — and even longer if sponsors can be found to ‘adopt’ the pianos over the rain-drenched autumn and winter.

Strict Tiger Moms are rejoicing. This means they can take their family on a west coast vacation and still get their kids to practice piano.

Here’s how you’re invited to use the pianos:

1) Unlock and Uncover: Stash the rain cover inside the piano bench

2) Play and Enjoy: You’re encouraged to share the piano but asked to be mindful of your noise level. No pounding Beethoven symphonies or rockabilly after 2 a.m.

3) Lock and Cover: Lock and cover the piano after you’re finished or le

4) Tell Your Friends: Snap a photo of your piano playing on Instagram by using #keys2streets. Because we can’t just enjoy something anymore without telling strangers about it on the Internet.

PianoOnly downside to public pianos? Polka dots

This piano bonanza is inspired by similar public pianos that have appeared in Barcelona, London, Montreal, Munich, Toronto, and even lovely downtown Campbell River, BC.

After the Olympics left Vancouver three years ago — and took the Robson Square zipline with it — the city got pretty dull. But maybe this city is nearly almost sort of kind of getting maybe a tiny bit fun to visit again. The FlyOver Canada ride just opened, hooray. And now Vancouver’s city council is considering extending patio hours to quench the thirsts of tourists and locals alike.

Piano 2The new pianos are another welcome addition. Depending on the quality of the piano playing, these instruments are arguably more entertaining than other public music options:

1) OPERA MAN — A possibly homeless man who, as advertised, wanders the streets and sings opera

2) FREE DIDGERIDOOS — Even played well, didgeridoos grind into your cerebral cortex and sound like the evil soundtrack to a really bad trip.


 4) FREE BAGPIPES — Can you imagine someone left bagpipes around town for everyone to squawk on? Ugh (and I say that with some authority as the son of a Scotswoman).

What do you think about free public pianos? Are they a fantastic cultural addition? Or do you want to bash and destroy these instruments to stop the dangerous freedom they represent?

— Ken Hegan

Read more of Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

Photos courtesy Keys to the Streets/CityStudio