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Piano Open To All, Brings Joy To Many At Texas A&M University

Story courtesy of guest writer, Lesley Henton, Communications Specialist at Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Jan. 3, 2013 ― Place a grand piano in a well- traveled area, make it available to anyone who wants to play, and amazing things can happen.

Throughout the day, brave souls with nimble fingers will stop by to play a song or two.

Passersby, normally in a rush to the next destination, may slow their steps or even stop to listen.

Strangers meet, smiles appear and there may even be a smattering of applause.

It happens every day at Texas A&M University.

It’s a faint sound, just barely audible, upon entering the Memorial Student Center (MSC), a meeting, eating and study center for Texas A&M’s student population of over 53,000.

The notes bounce off the walls and echo down the corridors.

Approaching the Flag Room, it grows louder.

Head in and there it is, tucked away in a comfortable corner, a grand piano flanked by students lounging on couches or sitting at tables, clicking laptops.

Although much has changed since the MSC renovation and expansion, the Flag Room’s piano remains.

Beloved by many spectators, tolerated by a few nap-takers, the piano exudes a cozy feeling, adding to the MSC’s reputation as the “living room of Texas A&M.”

The MSC’s Flag Room is named for its displays of flags representing Texas, the U.S. and, in honor of the uniformed members of the student body, ROTC and the Corps of Cadets.

The room has regal furniture, elegant lanterns and chandeliers, but also cowhide benches, after all, this is Texas.

Often a backdrop for press conferences and other formal events, the Flag Room has high ceilings, providing nice acoustics for the piano.

The song of the moment could just as easily be a classical sonata or a jazz standard as a Coldplay hit or a Justin Beiber “masterpiece” – it all depends whose fingers grace the keys.

But know this: if you’re going to play the piano in the MSC Flag Room, you’d better bring your A-game.

“The piano in the Flag Room isn’t one to practice on,” says one recent Tweet.  “Come…prepared. Practice downstairs.”

Piano practice rooms in the basement of the MSC can be a good warm-up for a Flag Room performance.

Freshman Taylor Eubanks likes to share her talent with the Flag Room audience.

Eubanks, 18, is a member of the Blinn TEAM, a co-enrollment partnership between Texas A&M and Blinn Community College.

She hails from McKinney, Texas, and has been playing piano for 11 years. She first played the Flag Room piano at the age of 13 while visiting her older brother who was attending Texas A&M.

“I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk by it without sitting down and playing something,” she recalls.

“So I sat down and played ‘I Can Only Imagine’ by Mercy Me.

I could only imagine that very piano would be my number one source of entertainment when I would attend Texas A&M six years later!”

Eubanks can tap out a classical piece or a modern pop tune and also writes and performs her own music.

The MSC’s Steinway Model B is an especially fine instrument to play, says Eubanks.

“I will be a very happy person if I own one like that before I die,” she laughs.

She says the Flag Room piano has an amazing way of bringing people together.

“It’s great because of the fellowship it brings,” she says.

“Hundreds of people walk by the piano every day, and I have yet to get off the bench before somebody approaches me.

I almost always have somebody pull up a chair and play or sing along with me.”

Tim Roorda, 22, from Houston, a graduate student in aerospace engineering, enjoys a good Flag Room performance.

“I like having the piano here,” he says. “When I was a freshman, I took a nap in here and woke up to someone playing a song from ‘Halo’ [the video game].

Sometimes it can be distracting, but on the whole, it contributes to the hominess of the MSC.”

Cullen Roach, Class of 2016, agrees.

The 18-year-old petroleum engineering major from Longview, Texas, says as long as it’s good music and not too loud, he’s okay with it.

“Hopefully it’s not so soothing that it puts you to sleep,” he says.

The piano is a great form of self-expression, notes 18-year-old Kendra Spaw, Class of 2016, an education major from College Station.

“I think it gives the area a playful vibe,” she says.

“People can express themselves in a different way than anywhere else on campus.”

Patrick McGovern, 20, a sophomore from Sherman, Texas, majoring in business marketing, plays for the Texas A&M Men’s Soccer Club and finds time each week to play the Flag Room piano.

McGovern has been playing piano for about three years and is self-taught.

He plays classical music, some pop songs and especially enjoys playing the songs of Yiruma, a South Korean pianist and composer.

McGovern says he was nervous the first time he played the Flag Room piano, “but every time you play and people walk up to you and say how much they enjoy it, you build more confidence.

It’s definitely not a practice piano.

I practiced ‘River Flows in You’ by Yiruma at home for about six months before I tried it here.”

He says he’s amazed by how many people he’s met by playing the piano.

“Every time I play, someone comes up to me and is so friendly. It’s definitely a conversation-starter and really adds to the rich environment here,” he notes.

Eubanks agrees, “Having a piano in the Flag Room definitely makes for a richer experience for people who visit the MSC,” she says.

“From watching peoples’ reactions, I’ve seen bad days turned to good and good days made better.

It’s brought so much joy to those who play it and has inspired those who listen.”

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Posted by on Jan 3 2013. Filed under Featured Stories, News.
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