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Interactive contemporary musicianship courses incorporating the piano as practical instrument

Playing the player piano for better health

Public areas at Medical Center of the Rockies have been filled at times in recent weeks with musical
notes wafting around from mini­concerts performed by Loveland Orchestra musicians.

The purpose? Good health. Study after study has shown that music is good for feeling good and for helping bring about better health—and so it’s good for patients and visitors to hear. And for staff members to enjoy, too.

Listen to a musical pitch for the MCR player piano

The plan is to keep musical notes streaming around?from more live music and through a new addition that some people were introduced to by watching pianos magically playing themselves in honky tonks and dance halls portrayed on the silver screen.

That is, player pianos.

The PVH and MCR Foundation recently launched a campaign to raise $8,500 to buy a baby grand piano.

The piano will be able to be played by either a person or through the piano’s internal electromagnet devices and pistons that operate the keys to follow pre­recorded music. The piano will be located close to the elevators in the lobby near the main entrance on the hospital’s west side.

“We want our patients and visitors to have a healing and positive experience when they are in the hospital,” said Anna Smoot, the Foundation’s annual giving officer. “Music helps provide the experience. They will be greeted by the piano music, and, if they know how to, they can play the piano, too.”

Player pianos have a rich history that dates back to the mid­1800’s. At one time, the pianos were central features in palaces and on stage. They became the dominate force in the music industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they were mass­produced for home use.

But the Crash of 1929 did them in. Most manufacturing ceased. Oh, woe, the player piano—it was then eclipsed by much less expensive phonographs; next, by cassette players and CD’s; and now, Internet streaming.

During the last half­century, the public’s familiarity with player pianos mainly came from watching saloon scenes in TV and movie shows about the Wild West.

However, player pianos surged back. Now they can be found in airports, shopping mails and other places where the public can enjoy the music.

They are also featured in public areas in some healthcare centers, including Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The idea has grown in popularity with MCR groups like the Employee Advisory Group and Staff Nurse Advisory Panel that have “stepped up as champions for the wonderful benefits the piano will bring to the patient experience,” Smoot said.

In addition, patients and family members, as well as the hospital’s Patient Advisory Council, have become key champions for the piano, she noted.

By Gary Kimsey,,