‘Keys for Kids’ initiative aims to put an upright in every LC elementary school

20180919_121048.jpgKeys for Kids logo.jpgScott

Walking around the halls of Lake Charles elementary schools is going to sound a little different this fall, thanks to the “Keys for Kids” initiative spearheaded by Leif and Sheryl Pedersen.

Pedersen said he and his wife came up with the idea for the initiative after learning about the “Sing for Hope” program in New York. The program, now in its seventh year, places elaborately designed pianos around Central Park for public use.

“There are designated people who watch the pianos and cover them if it rains and people will stop and sit at the benches and start playing, which is very cool,” he said. “Sheryl said, ‘Wouldn’t that be great to do with the elementary schools?’ and I thought, ‘What a great idea.’ ”

Pedersen said the George Rodrigue Foundation introduced him to the owner of Hall Piano Company in Metairie, which supplied the pianos.

“I went and met with the owner and he said that when his company sells new pianos, usually it’s on the condition that he has to take the old one away,” Pedersen said. “In order to dispose of a piano, he has to bring people in to completely disassemble them because the metal and the strings have to go to one place and the wood has to go to another. He said it’s just time-consuming and costly so he lets the pianos build up in the storehouse before it’s done.”

Pedersen said he chose 12 pianos from the 75 in the storehouse — most of which were in “pretty bad shape,” he said — and brought them to Lake Charles. Of those, he said, about nine need tuning but will be suitable for use.

One piano can’t be tuned, Pedersen said, but the cabinetry was too beautiful to leave behind. That piano was ultimately painted by artist Susan Hebert who painted on keys to the up-right instrument.

Pedersen said several of the artists who are decorating the other pianos are featured in the Art for the Soul program at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Art for the Soul brings credence to the belief that if music heals the mind and body, then art heals the soul, he said.

“This is kind of an extension of that and we’d like to plant a seed with kids to show them how important the arts are,” he said.

Pedersen said his goal is to donate a piano to every elementary school, both public and private, in Lake Charles proper by Thanksgiving.

He said Sherwin Williams had donated all the paint, the Shearman Foundation is paying for the pianos to be tuned, the Lake Charles Fire Department is picking up the pianos after they’re painted and the Calcasieu Parish School Board is delivering them.

Pedersen said he needs about 10 more pianos to complete the project and a few more artists to volunteer to paint. He said the artists have creative control over their creations but he does ask that a children’s theme is used.

Some of the pianos have already been painted based on the songs “Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie,” “Believe” from “The Wiz,” “You Are My Sunshine” and “Under the Sea.” Others have been based on “Don Quixote,” Power Rangers and other cartoon characters.

He said his ultimate goal is to provide a piano for all elementary schools within Calcasieu and then possibly to each elementary campus within the five-parish area.

To contact Pedersen, call 494-3226

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