By: Malia Savella
The Oracle campus has everything…except for one thing
At the birth of our new campus, we also acknowledge a death. As of January 9th, 2018, d.tech’s baby grand piano has passed away. For two and a half years, our PABs and lunches were colored by a piano that sat in the hangar, often tickled by prodigies and people who really liked “Don’t Stop Believing”. To fill the hollow silence in our community’s hearts, we take the time to commemorate the rise and fall of an instrument that at least some of us miss.
The piano was introduced to d.tech sometime late in 2015– put succinctly by senior Piotr Garbazonek during his “sophomore year or something”. Garbazonek is an avid musician who’s played the piano on and off for twelve years. While he doesn’t consider himself a pianist, students who were at Rollins Road this year might remember his gentle improv during breaks. “I don’t know any songs. I’d just pick a key and play around in it,” he explained.
All of the pianists interviewed, including Garbazonek, came to the same conclusion; the piano was a tool for connection. The piano was a toy, and not in a bad way. Music was a common ground for students to bond over. No matter the skill level, or playing ability to begin with, pockets of students banded around the piano to admire their peer’s songs and play their own. Taylor Strongheart, a former d.tech student and current pianist at SOTA, described the environment as “a lil’ hub”, “another mode of socialization”, “conversation starter”, and other endearing terms. Ava Witherspoon, another former student, said they felt felt that playing the piano was their only real way to be involved in the d.tech community: “I guess I miss the opportunity to show people what I play and the opportunity to participate, and play it as a form of participation rather than just playing. It was an interesting experience, separate on just practicing on a keyboard alone. Just having others hear it, and kind of sharing it with others by playing it in a space with so many… that seems like participation to me”.
Witherspoon also talked at length about how much they appreciated getting to play a real piano at school, as opposed to their keyboard at home. Apparently a good chunk of d.tech students don’t have a baby grand to plunk around on whenever they please. For a pianist, it’s a HUGE opportunity to play on a real piano, to feel the weight of actual keys under your fingers. The piano was a tool for learning how to play, and later, how to play better. However, we quickly approach a problem: performance is definitely public, but is practice? “I think just in general, when people are trying to learn on that piano ‘cause they probably don’t have their own, and they try to play the same rhythm over and over again, it gets mildly frustrating,” reported junior and piano veteran Marius Tali.
Therein lies the main complaint: repetition. There are select songs that elicit groans from our student body. I remember from my sophomore year the plunky We Are Number One, the “Interstellar” theme, and from this year, Heart and Soul. “There was so much Undertale back in the day,” said Strongheart, adding dryly, “It was alright the first, uh, eighty-six times”. Whether or not the people playing were trying to be annoying was irrelevant to those listening. Sound was inescapable in the hangar, and hearing the same stuff blare for all of lunch tested the patience of many. Some of this issue stemmed from a monopolization of the instrument. There were people who were regulars, and when talking about what they don’t miss, Witherspoon mentioned how they didn’t like how hard it was to get one’s foot in the door, or find a time to play when someone wasn’t already. Tali thought listening to the piano would have been more enjoyable if players rotated out.
Unfortunately, we cannot dwell on the what-ifs. The past is the past, and the past is where we’ve left our loud, glossy friend. Though where did we literally leave the piano? The unanimous guess is that it’s still at Rollins, stuck where Garbazonek’s amps are. In trying to find out why the piano never made it to Oracle Parkway, I contacted an admin who was rumored to have claimed that the movers refused to move the piano here. That admin ignored my request for an interview, then referred me to another staff member who never responded to my email. “Of course they could move it,” Strongheart commented, interrupting me mid-question during our interview. “Why couldn’t they move it? They moved everything.”
Though there are complaints galore over how often certain songs were played, there was a quiet sentimentality to each interviewee as they’d talk about the hangar ambiance, which, per Tali’s words, “had a musical touch”. Classical music was a veritable favorite. There was something truly special about having live music, and for it to be performed by your very own classmates, that warmed the school. There’s no main space for a public piano to be dropped in here, but many truly believed that this campus would benefit from its piano. While reminiscing, Garbazonek said, “I’d be glad if it showed up here.”
Mourning can often leave us at a loss of words. In our time of need, Benji Chang, sophomore, speaks to what we’re all thinking: “Music. Piano. Good”. There will be no services held at this time.