Jodi Doerksen wants to honour a final promise to her friend.
Doerksen, her husband Darwin and the family of Matt Reeder are working on a plan to have a piano installed at Nelson City Hall. Reeder, who was killed on Baker Street in 2018, was a talented pianist.
“He always wanted a street piano in Nelson,” said Doerksen. “He just dreamed of that his whole time here and he wanted to fight for that. So I remember saying to him, ‘I’m going to get you a piano,’ and then he passed away.”
Reeder died on June 5, 2018 after he was kicked in the head while sitting on a sidewalk in Nelson’s downtown.
Doerksen said the plan to install a public piano was partially inspired by the Play Me, I’m Yours initiative by British artist Luke Jerram, which has installed over 2,000 street pianos in 65 cities around the world.
Nelson currently has no street piano or public instruments. Doerksen said a street piano will add a welcoming ambience to the location.
“They painted that beautiful mural on the side of City Hall and it represents love. So Nelson is of course arts and culture and music and whatnot, and should have a street piano.”
The plan, however, has a number of hurdles to clear.
Firstly, Doerksen said the group is still searching for a piano and bench. She said it needs to be an upright piano that is donated, since there isn’t money to purchase a new one.
It would also require maintenance, of which approximately $1,000 has already been raised to cover.
Joy Barrett, Nelson’s cultural development officer, said there are examples of street pianos elsewhere in B.C. She cited Penticton, where a piano has been installed with a weather cover.
Barrett also agreed city hall is a good location for the piano. Putting an instrument on a busy thoroughfare like Baker Street, she said, might lead to noise complaints.
“There really is nobody in that direct vicinity [at city hall] who could be negatively affected by it,” said Barrett.
“There’s lots of space, which is great, and it’s also a location where, weather dependent, we could just roll it back into City Hall and store it or keep it away for the night. Whereas if it was on Baker Street, that’s more of an issue.”
Barrett added there is a reluctance to add a public touch point during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the piano may have to wait until a vaccine is available.
The piano’s installation would also require approval from city council.
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