Dorm walk-through yields 12 pianos in basement

Jared Gilmour, Reporter

After a dozen pianos were found in the basement of Ayers College of Commerce and Industry, administrators and student leaders are weighing whether or not their repair is worth the investment, and if pianos are an important component of residence halls.

Last quarter, Paul Riel, executive director of residential services, found nine upright pianos and three grand pianos in the basement of CCI during a walk-through of the dorm with residents and members of an Associated Student Government working group. He said two of the grand pianos were salvageable, but they would require repairs that could cost as much as $20,000.

“They walked in to the large room and in the far corner were 12 pianos just sitting there,” said Alex Van Atta, student life vice president.

Riel enlisted the help of a piano expert to assess whether the pianos would be functional for students in dorms. The majority of the pianos were not salvageable.

“All but two were pretty much unusable,” Van Atta said. “They’d been sitting down there for a while, or were down there because they were out of commission, and no one knew what to do with them.”

The University is now working to determine whether it should fix the pianos or buy several new pianos to distribute among residence halls.

“Some people have said to us the value of that repair is worth it because they have a shelf life of over 100 years,” Riel said.

Some students living on campus want greater access to pianos in residential, rather than just in academic settings.

“Music majors have access to pianos, but people who are away from home don’t have the same access to musical instruments,” said Garam Kim, a Bienen senior and president of 1856 Orrington Ave.

The executive board of 1856 Orrington has been trying to get a piano for their dorm for almost the entire year, Kim said. They allotted money from the dorm’s budget toward the addition. Kim said the request initially came from a non-music major.

“They want a place to play piano, too,” she said.

The board wanted an electric piano and filed a request, but Kim said the University still hasn’t gotten back to them to approve it.

“We still would have half of our budget left if we had bought the piano,” Kim said. “They’re very willing to buy things that are unnecessary, but in this case they’ve been slow. I don’t know why we haven’t gotten it yet.”

Riel said he is unsure why Kim’s request is taking so long because he doesn’t work directly with residence hall’s requests to purchase items with dorm funds. Riel added that he is trying to be very deliberate about the purchase of the pianos.

“Because it’s such a big capital investment for us we want to be thinking about applications across the residential communities — how many we need, what’s the shelf life, how would we maintain the pianos in the future,” Riel said.

Van Atta said a few of the pianos that are in dorms across campus are mostly out of the tune and poorly maintained. The ASG working group, he said, is reviewing existing dorm amenities.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work to provide additional tuning services so people can enjoy pianos,” Riel said. “We just want to be intentional about how we continue the program.”