Walking down the streets of Downtown Lancaster, it is impossible to miss the funky hand-painted pianos scattered throughout the city. Bypassers are drawn to these music makers where prolific melodies reverberate off of buildings throughout the neighborhood.
Now dubbed the street piano capital of the world, Lancaster city provides a home for 22 pianos from May through the end of September. These pianos are not here by chance, but are provided by Music For Everyone (MFE), a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to promoting and strengthening music’s role in the schools and communities of Lancaster.
MFE was founded by John Gerdy in 2006. “Our mission being to cultivate the power of music as an educational and community building tool in Lancaster County,” he said.
MFE fundraises and provides grants for music education in Lancaster County schools and community art groups. They also allot four $2000 scholarships for Millersville University music education majors, who, in return, will act as music mentors in schools.
Since 2006, the organization has provided 1800 musical instruments to students, and just last year, raised about $90,000 in grants, reaching about half of the needed amount of $180,000.
As a stay at home parent, Gerdy started researching the importance of music education in schools. As his kids became older, he began to ponder his experience of being a life-long musician and the importance of music, wanting to create an organization that would “think globally and act locally.”
“I had a lot of help. After I spoke to some friends and put together a board, the idea took off,” he said.
Currently through Keys for the City, individuals and organizations sponsor pianos on the street which helps MFE in their endeavor to provide grants for the local community. Gerdy was inspired by the international “Play Me I’m Yours” movement which set up 15 pianos across the streets for three weeks and was commissioned by Fierce Earth in Birmingham, UK, in 2008.
Although Gerdy’s friends initially thought he was crazy to place pianos in the hands of the Lancaster community, within the first 24 months of having 22 pianos on the street, there was only one case of vandalism.
“This says what a great community we have, because they embraced the whole program,” said Gerdy.
When MFE realized that providing an entire classroom with instruments was not necessarily ideal when there was only one instructor, they launched “MFE in the Schools,” a program that aims to underwrite professional musicians and teachers to go into schools working alongside teachers and directly with students.
Currently, the cuts in funding have created an ever-growing need for MFE, and fortunately there are many individuals within the organization helping to continue its success.
An avid lover of all things music, Millersville University senior Aaron Rodden decided to intern with MFE after discovering that he could tie the economics of the organization in with research he was conducting for his seminar class.
Having already worked musical events with MFE on several occasions, Rodden was excited to begin doing something that he loved. “I really like music and musical events, and being a part of an organization that I believe in is so important,” he said.
A typical day for Rodden consists of tracking down venues to hold shows, organizing inventory for merchandise and working events. Rodden is also given the freedom to create a fundraiser for the organization. He is currently planning to hold a concert where people can fund a band to create a song about the topic of their choice. The goal being, to crowd fund and raise money for the organization.
The next event that Music For Everyone will be involved in is Lancaster’s “Extraordinary Give,” taking place Nov. 21, it is an all-day of giving which encourages people to support non-profit organizations. More than anything else, Gerdy enjoys the outcome of the organizations hard work.
“It’s always nice to see the kids with their instruments performing with the people you have underwritten; it is so gratifying,” said Gerdy.
To donate to MFE, visit their website at http://www.musicforeveryone.net/or connect with them on their Facebook page.