Cronig’s Market in West Tisbury has a new piano on its patio where customers are invited to sit and play. David Stanwood, a piano technician, and Andy Herr, an Island musician, are the duo responsible for it being there, with permission from Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s.
A part of Stanwood’s studio in Lambert’s Cove is being made into an apartment by his son, leaving no room for the piano. While thinking of the right place to have the piano, Stanwood happened upon the patio at Cronig’s.
“It seemed to be a perfect place to have the piano,” Stanwood told The Times. The hanging roof would protect the piano from the rain, and the instrument would be accessible to the public.
Stanwood said music is a great way to celebrate getting back together again in a low-key way. People are also intrigued by the piano. In the first 10 minutes of Stanwood preparing and tuning the piano, people wandered over and asked to take pictures. “It makes people happy and brings them together,” said Stanwood. He also said the piano is right next to the bulletin board advertising events on the Island, adding to the theme of a return to normalcy.
Haroldo Nascimento, a manager at Cronig’s, encourages people to have fun and play the piano. “Last night [Monday], some guy came in to play, and the music was very nice,” said Nascimento.
This is not the first time the piano has been displayed in a public space. Herr got the idea to provide a public piano from his students in 2013. They told him about a group called Play Me, I’m Yours that installed public pianos in various cities. Herr said the group put about 80 pianos in Boston. Herr thought this was “a cool idea.”
He conceptualized how this could work on Martha’s Vineyard, and a lot of cooperation and effort went into making the project a reality. Herr said he initially thought of collaborating with the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, but that did not come to fruition. Fortunately, Herr has many artist friends who came in to help. Alexis Rusillo, Janette Vanderhoop, and Lenston Daugherty designed the piano’s paint patterns. Herr’s mother, Susie Herr, painted and reupholstered the bench. Jim Legando took apart and reassembled the piano case parts, and Stanwood maintained care of the piano.
Herr said the current piano came after looking through many submissions. “If you put the word out you want a piano, tons of people are looking to get rid of pianos,” said Herr.
Next came the issue of where the piano would go. Herr said the first location they tried was the Chilmark Free Public Library. According to Herr, the Chilmark select board denied the proposal, citing “liability issues,” and being afraid someone could get hurt. Eventually, a manager of Rosewater, who was a friend of Herr, suggested placing the piano on the Rosewater property. With permission from the Edgartown select board, the piano found a home at Rosewater. This was short-lived, as a neighbor, who also happened to be a lawyer, put in a complaint about it. This led to a search for another location for the piano, which was difficult in 2020, as nobody wanted an instrument everyone could touch since at the early stages of the pandemic it was believed COVID-19 could be transmitted through contact with an object’s surface.
All of this led to the piano finding its new home in West Tisbury at Cronig’s.
“My intention at the beginning of this project was, if I was going to install this at a business location, it should be mutually beneficial. It’s something that can really bring attention and light to a business. It could be great for the business,” said Herr.
Herr also hopes that the piano at Cronig’s can bring the West Tisbury community closer together. Compared with the other towns, West Tisbury lacks a town center where people can hang out. Herr cited grocery stores and the Post Office as places he would chat with people in West Tisbury. “This is kind of a perfect location for it. It’s an otherwise uninteresting corner, and people can come, listen to music, and see what’s going on at the cork board,” said Herr.
He also hopes the instrument encourages people to learn or relearn the piano.
Herr said the piano will stay out only during the summer, to avoid possible cracking damage in autumn and winter. Stanwood will continue to maintain the piano.
“The fun is just beginning,” Stanwood said.
There is also a Facebook group created by Andy Herr for the piano called MV Street Piano.