On May 1, 2018, the legend of Starkville’s downtown piano was born with the placement of a brightly painted wooden piano outside of the Starkville Community Theatre. Flash-forward two years later, the piano has completed its faithful service to the town and is ready to roll into retirement.
Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill spoke of her personal experience with the piano which has shaped Main Street, enthusiastically calling the piano her “favorite subject.”
“Almost immediately after I was elected, I had a friend of mine who said he had a piano that his sister had left him when she died, and he wanted to do something with it. I had been talking about street pianos in my campaign, so he donated it and we got it painted,” Spruill said.
Delving into her experiences, Spruill explained the impact the piano has had on the city of Starkville and the town's appreciation of the arts.
“It has been a real source of joy to me because I see little kids, I see people who are just clicking on it and making noise, and it just adds to me so much of our downtown,” Spruill said. “Art is important, and music is such a critical part of our lives, to make our lives better and enrich us, and it’s just been one of those really great treasures. I smile every time I saw it, and it gave me a regular opportunity to be happy about being downtown. I loved it.”
Spruill outlined the decision-making process behind removing the piano after two years spent sitting outside entertaining the town’s citizens.
“I had to take it away, and it lived a beautiful life, but it had gotten to the point where it was just peeling back. It was tired, and we didn’t want it to be there and be a source of trouble, so I had the sanitation department remove it,” Spruill said.
Spruill said there is a replacement piano being prepared.
“We had a new addition donated and we just have to get that painted and then we’ll put it in the place of the one that gave us all two years of service, so I’m happy for that, and all things change and that piano had had its time,” Spruill said. “I’m ready for the new one to come soon.”
Spruill said that despite the departure of the first street piano, it lived its life serving the people of Starkville and shaping our downtown.
“It had lots of life and old stories on it. From it came two other pianos downtown, so it’s just been a real source of pleasure. I think when the kids get out of school in the afternoons, they’ll sit and play. I’m hoping that it has sparked some interest in music in some of the kids and even the little toddlers who sit down on the bench and pluck away,” Spruill said.
Gabe Smith, the chief administrator of the Starkville Community Theatre, said he does not feel much remorse over the removal of the instrument for practical purposes; however, it did hold sentimental value.
“I’m not super, super sad to see this one go for several reasons,” Smith said. “One, I know we have another one coming, and two, it lasted so long. I don’t think any of us realize that it survived for that long. The thing that could be sad about it is that one of the volunteers at the theatre used to live here in Starkville, and she was the one who took the time to paint it and give it its really cool look and design,” Smith said.
Smith said it was a surprise the piano lasted through harsh conditions for as long as it did.
“The piano lived outside for a very long time. It’s faced the wind, rain and the cold. Most people enjoyed it, and some people didn’t. You’re out there on Main Street, so anybody walking by can do whatever they want. It was looking a little worse for wear for about two or three months and there was only so long it could live out there,” Smith said.
Mollie Adams, a Mississippi State University sophomore majoring in social work, has seen the piano many times as she frequently visits the Nine Twentynine coffeehouse beside it. Adams said the piano was necessary to Main Street and blended in perfectly with its surroundings.
“It made sense that it was there,” Adams said. “The reason why it makes sense is that there is lots of character. It’s old and you can look at it and think that there is more to this than just a regular piano. I enjoyed its rustic look. The rustic piano was a perfect depiction of the downtown area which could certainly speak for Starkville. It’s not super beautiful here, but it is in its own way due to Starkville’s character.”