Robert Alkire (left), Michael Alkire and Dan DeMascio of Piano and Organ Moving Co. Inc. move the Broadway Boogie Woogie piano into their moving van on Aug. 1 for Everett’s Street Tunes. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Robert Alkire (left), Michael Alkire and Dan DeMascio of Piano and Organ Moving Co. Inc. move the Broadway Boogie Woogie piano into their moving van on Aug. 1 for Everett’s Street Tunes. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Play a tune: 18 painted pianos line streets of downtown Everett

This is the ninth year for Everett’s Street Tunes, meant to tempt passersby to pull up a bench.

Anyone who ever navigated a piano’s C scale or is able to peck out the rudimentary notes of “Chopsticks” or at least half of “Heart and Soul” probably wonders: What would it be like to play for a crowd?

For the next three weeks, you’ll get your chance. Just pull up a bench beside one of 18 pianos scattered around the downtown sidewalks of Everett through Aug. 21.

“The great thing about this is it’s a very inexpensive kind of grassroots program,” said Carol Thomas, the city’s cultural arts manager. “Any time in the arts you have a totally interactive process where you make the music yourself, it’s a home run.”

This is the ninth year of the event, called Street Tunes. It began in 2010 with eight pianos. Some of the pianos from that inaugural event are still being used this year to delight players and passersby.

Brian Walsh (left) and Alton Johnson of Piano and Organ Moving Co. Inc. move the Jimi Hendrix Experience piano into their moving van on Aug. 1. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Brian Walsh (left) and Alton Johnson of Piano and Organ Moving Co. Inc. move the Jimi Hendrix Experience piano into their moving van on Aug. 1. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Thomas said she’s sometimes seen a group gather around one of the pianos, singing along with the player. Or other musicians set up for a jam session with the pianist.

“We were the first city in the Northwest to put out pianos,” Thomas said. “It caused such a stir. The businesses we put them in front of reported their best sales ever for August.”

The idea for the project originated when a city staffer heard about Luke Jerram, a British artist who is credited with launching the street piano idea in 2008.

Since then more than 1,950 pianos have had temporary installations on the streets of some 60 cities globally in a project known as “Play Me, I’m Yours,” according to the website.

If you don’t play the piano, there’s still a way to participate. Artists have decorated all the Street Tunes pianos. You can vote for your favorite on the city’s website.

Look for themes as varied as “Meow Art” by Cathy Tanasse at Everett’s main library, 2702 Hoyt Ave., and “Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love” by Cheri O’Brien near the J. Matheson and Burketts store at 2617 Colby Ave.

An Everett Public Works employee straps the Live Your Song piano into place in front of Major League Pizza in Everett on Aug. 1. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

An Everett Public Works employee straps the Live Your Song piano into place in front of Major League Pizza in Everett on Aug. 1. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett Station has the distinction of having two pianos. One, a baby grand, is set up on the first floor by the coffee shop, “Joy Unspeakable,” painted by artist Kimberly Williams Mattson. The other is outdoors, “Sun in Raven in Whale,” by Darrin Hess and Jane Meagher.

Marysville artist Holly Stafford said she painted a piano with the theme “Moonlight Garden Jam,” three years ago. This year it’s posted near Silver Cup Coffee, 2707 Colby Ave.

“I have a really playful style,” she said of her approach. “I thought it would be fun to play on the theme of summer” with decorations that included metallic gold and sparklers.

Local businesses take special care of the pianos for the three weeks they’re available each year, covering them in plastic at night and unwrapping them in the morning.

When it starts to rain, pedestrians often will stop to find plastic bags to protect the instruments, Thomas said.

She said she’s sometimes surprised by the variety of people who sit down at the keyboard and play masterfully without sheet music.

“I think it’s something pretty magical about music,” she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Where to tickle the ivory

What: Everett Street Tunes

When: Through Aug. 21

Where: Downtown Everett

More: everettwa.gov/824/Street-Tunes

Find the 18 street pianos

Imagine Children’s Museum, 1502 Wall St.

Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave.

Everett Library, 2702 Hoyt Ave.

Best Nails, 2928 Colby Ave.

Renee’s Clothing, 2820 Colby Ave.

Major League Pizza, 2811 Colby Ave.

Fast Signs, 2802 Colby Ave.

Silver Cup Coffee, 2707 Colby Ave.

J. Matheson & Burketts, 2615 Colby Ave.

Jonn Laurenz Fine Cuts, 2908 Wetmore Ave.

Narrative Coffee, 2927 Wetmore Ave.

Wetmore Theatre Plaza, 2710 Wetmore Ave.

Sno-Isle Food Co-Op & Sisters, 2804 Grand Ave.

Sol Food, 1405 Hewitt Ave.

Scuttlebutt Brewery, 1205 Craftsman Way

Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave., indoor and outdoor

Grow Washington, 3013 Colby Ave.

Vote for your favorite piano at www.surveymonkey.com/r/KDZPWTL

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