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Pianos for People finds homes for instruments among those who cannot afford them

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Sheena Duncan, executive director, Pianos for People

More and more people are trying to shed their heirloom pianos. While many of these instruments end up in the landfill, one St. Louis nonprofit is trying to give the instruments new life.

Pianos for People started in 2012 by providing donated pianos to people who could not afford them. In 2014, the organization expanded with a storefront on Cherokee Street, where piano lessons are offered to over 80 students at no cost. Now, the organization is expanding to offer programming and classes to other parts of the community.

Executive Director Sheena Duncan told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh that, at this point, there are too many pianos being disposed of in the St. Louis area for Pianos for People to accept all donations.

“We were quite overwhelmed by the response,” Duncan said. “Not only by people who wanted to give their piano back to the community but, equally, this interest that people wanted to have the instrument as well. We realized that we had found a niche and service that we could bring these two together. And there we began.”

The organization was founded by Tom Townsend, who works in advertising and is also a jazz/blues pianist, and Pat Eastman, a piano teacher and pianist, after learning how many pianos were sent to the landfill. When Townsend’s son, a budding musician, died, the need to do something was more urgent than ever. And so, Pianos for People was born.

“Our recipients vary in age, we have families with eight children through to senior citizens ... I wouldn’t say there is a typical recipient but the common denominator would be there is a desire to play,” said Duncan. “Our recipients have to express a keen commitment to want to play or learn the piano. The other criterion is financial need.”

Refurbished pianos go to under-funded schools, community organizations and churches as well. 

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.