TRENDS Diary: PVC Piano Brings Joy to Passers-by

Emmi Lindsey shows off her PVC pipe piano.

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

I am a senior in college, studying to be a music educator. My favorite thing about music is the camaraderie that inevitably results when people make music together.

As our communities began social distancing, the first thing I missed was engaging with others, and especially with children. I heard about the Creative Neighborhoods COVID-19 Work Projects through the CU College of Music’s Entrepreneurial Center for Music, and I knew I wanted to take part in a way that would benefit the young people in my neighborhood, so I built a simple instrument for the kids on my street.

Putting my knowledge of acoustics to work, I measured and cut several PVC pipes to specific lengths so that when hit at the opening of the pipe, they would resonate at specific pitches. This involved a lot of trial and error, but was also a lot of fun to work through. I cut eight pipes and created an A major scale; this way, any of the pipes sound relatively pleasant when hit at the same time. The player can bang on the pipes and make some pretty cool music.

I painted the pipes, attached them to a board and decorated the finished product with music notes using spray paint. I also printed pieces of paper advertising the piano and put them in mailboxes all down my street.

Now the piano is sitting in my front yard, leaning against our mailbox, ready to be played. I hope that playing the piano brings some extra joy into the days of the young people on my street — and maybe even their parents!

– Emmi Lindsey, CU student and future music educator