Piano Barn Shelters the Ivories

Louise Andersson, Staff Writer

As students linger in line at the campus coffee shop and huddle around the San Rafael Plaza in between classes, they may hear a sometimes faint or sometimes loud melody from a quaint corner just outside of the administration building.

The Piano Barn, a musical fixture on campus, has recently been renovated, returning a charming allure to everyday campus life.

The piano corner was first introduced to the college in the spring of 2012. A program celebrating the 15th anniversary of Jefferey Kahane as the LA Chamber Orchestra’s music director decided to donate 30 pianos to various public locations throughout Los Angeles. Fortunately, GCC was selected as a recipient.

The piano corner soon became a center point on campus, attracting not only budding or professional musicians, but anybody with a taste for music.

Peter Green, chair of the visual and performing arts division, described the piano as a very “positive” addition to the campus because “everybody loves it.”

However, one of the major drawbacks of having a piano outside was that weather conditions affected the instrument’s integrity. With a very weak form of protection surrounding it, the piano wore out over time. It was eventually removed due to not only its deteriorated condition, but also because loud playing disturbed students in surrounding classrooms.

Although the piano met an early retirement, Green and Dan Padilla, manager of operations and maintenance, contemplated how to replace the old one, since it contributed so positively to campus culture. After some brainstorming, Green managed to find a piano on campus that was not being used and handed it over to Padilla and the facilities department for further evaluation.

When Padilla received the new piano, it was in rough shape. To avoid weather damage that affected the previous one, Padilla knew he had to make it waterproof and isolate the sound to keep it from disturbing students in class.

He first cleaned up all of the keys and painted its surrounding frame in a dark bronze color. He then came up with a basic 3-D protection design that he passed along to Vince Peoples, the carpenter and locksmith in the facilities department, who built the structure.

Peoples, who creates items on a daily basis, could picture it in an instant and, with 27 years of experience in the facilities department, he was trusted with the project.  Because there was no deadline, Peoples had more time for inspiration.

The more he worked on the project, the more he liked doing it. It was when the doors started taking shape that Peoples started picturing it as a barn.

He believes that his creation is durable and strong.

“I built it like I was building a house,” he said. “You start from the bottom of it and work your way up.”

Having put in a lot of thought and effort in protecting the piano, Peoples made sure the foundation was stable, even when the weather is not. He used mudsill for the wood that surrounds the piano to make it waterproof.

The inside of the barn consists of a soundboard that is there to “muffle up the sound.” This way, the only ones who can hear the music are the ones who play and people close by. The new soundproof quality may even encourage shy students to play as well.

Peoples and others involved with the project are satisfied with their work.

“I have only heard positive comments about it,” Green said.

Although the barn took Peoples a month to produce, he feels inspired to do more projects similar to this one.

“If they asked me to do another one to put on the other side of the campus, I would make it look like a garage door,” he said.

The piano barn is open to anybody who would like to give it a try, including both students and faculty.

“To be able to sit out there and listen to it when someone plays is just awesome,” said Padilla.