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Student hopes to weave sense of togetherness through piano project

Fourth-year economics student Jeremy Barrett has worked since May 2017 to get public pianos installed on campus. He said he hopes they will foster a sense of community. (Joe Akira/Daily Bruin staff)

By Raylene Factora

Jan. 10, 2019 11:34 p.m.

A UCLA student installed public pianos around campus to foster community through music.

The UCLA Piano Project, lead by Jeremy Barrett, a fourth-year economics student, aims to bring together students through public pianos placed on the Hill and on campus. The three pianos were placed in front of Bruin Plate, in front of Covel Commons and in Luskin Conference Hall. The final piano will open on Bruin Walk on Jan. 30.

Barrett began the solo project in May 2017 after being encouraged by Chancellor Gene Block during his office hours. The project has since expanded to encompass over 40 UCLA staffers, from organizations such as Associated Students UCLA, the Healthy Campus Initiative and the Undergraduate Students Association Council.

“The coolest part has been working with such a loving staff,” Barrett said. “The staff I’ve been working with has such big hearts, and really want to make this happen for the school.”

Barrett said he is passionate about this project because he believes in the importance of face-to-face communication, which he hopes to foster through the project. He added his father would tell him stories about people spending time together in the ’60s and ’70s.

“Conversation was the best thing to do instead of iPhone games or Instagram,” Barrett said. “As an old-fashioned person, I thought it’d be a good idea to revive that at UCLA.”

Judith Smith, the dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music, said the school of music donated pianos to the project. The School has about 150 pianos that they periodically recycle.

“We often donate the pianos as we buy new ones,” Smith said. “I indicated to (Barrett) back in the fall that there would be pianos for his use.”

Students said they enjoy using the pianos because they bring together people who like music.

Sophia Wackerman, a first-year global jazz studies student, said she sees the piano project as a new way to make friends.

“Throughout my life I’ve always sort of had a magnetic pull to those who share a passion for music, and that kind of generated my own community of musician friends,” Wackerman said. “I think the piano project can definitely have the same effect since it’s an open invitation for people to share music with one another.”

Barrett said he hopes the project will not only entertain musicians, but also foster a sense of community on campus.

“It’s going to be a place where people can gather and create a place of family at UCLA. The main goal of the project is to build community through music,” Barrett said. “I want people to be happy here.”

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Raylene Factora
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