Selçuk Demirel

Every few days, Justin Yeh ’12 walks to the back of the first level of Frist Campus Center to play what he considers one of the best-kept pianos on campus. A pianist since age 5, Yeh plays the baby grand Yamaha for half an hour, bringing sheet music and a tough skin. 

“I know people find it annoying when I play,” Yeh said. “But why are they studying in the student center in the first place?” With no written policy governing access to the Frist piano, students have differing views on when the piano should be played. Rafael Abrahams ’13 welcomes piano music at all times, saying, “If you study in Frist as opposed to a library, you must expect there to be distracting noise.” 

Other students recall when the music provided a perfect moment. For Isaiah Miller ’12, it was hearing the theme song from the movie Amélie. “It’s always nice to hear someone playing something beautiful, just because you’re not expecting it,” Miller said. 

But for Daniel Becker ’13, the piano is more than just ambient sound: “It’s really annoying when you’re trying to watch sports on the TV, and you can’t hear because of the piano.” Madison Bush ’14 said that volume is a key factor. “Must they be so aggressive at 2 a.m.?” she asked. “What’s wrong with quiet piano playing?” 

Knowing that the acoustics in Frist can carry the piano’s music up to the third floor, Yeh brings pieces he has practiced for years, such as “La Campanella” by Franz Liszt and a nocturne by Frederic Chopin. “I do get self-conscious about how well I play,” Yeh admitted.

On the other hand, David Kanter, a Ph.D. student in the Woodrow Wilson School, never brings sheet music when he sits down to play jazz piano. Kanter recalled how one student approached him with a request to stop the music. “I could tell he was annoyed that I had disrupted his studying,” Kanter said. He stopped playing.

Kanter, who occasionally studies in Frist, understands that the piano can be a nuisance. And for this reason, he always feels awkward when he begins to play. But the self-consciousness goes away once he gets “into the flow of the music,” he said. “Then everyone kind of disappears.”