For over 20 years, the Piano Santa Foundation has been placing pianos in the homes of students in the Portland metro area. But our story began with a single piano given to a single child.
In 1992, a local piano technician had become increasingly concerned about the cuts being made to music programs in our schools. He had been looking for a way to help out, and then a client gave him a piano. So he worked on the piano in his spare time and, that December, contacted local music teachers to identify a deserving student who might benefit from having a piano in his or her home. He coordinated with the student’s parents to surprise her with the gift of a piano during the holidays.
Building on that first December delivery, he continued to give away pianos each holiday season (earning the nickname “the Piano Santa”), but started to think about how he could get more pianos out to kids. So first, in order to accept more pianos from more donors, he decided to set up a foundation. Then, he decided that lending pianos as “scholarships” was a better idea than just giving them away because earning and completing a scholarship would represent an achievement for the child, not just a windfall.
Gradually, one scholarship became ten, and then eventually a hundred.
Today, PSF continues to provide scholarship opportunities across all income levels. Each scholarship requires that the student perform at four events a year, record and send in practice times, and keep a notebook tracking all of his or her musical accomplishments. Through donations and partnerships with local and national piano companies, PSF’s scholarship program has grown to include standard scholarships in which pianos are awarded on a non-competitive basis all year long, as well as competitive awards to advanced students for the use of grand pianos (see pianos for students for information and applications).
In addition to awards directly to children, Piano Santa places pianos in community organizations that offer music education, rehabilitation services, community musical activities or music therapy (see pianos for organizations for information and applications). Over the years, PSF pianos have brought the joy of music to Portland-area organizations such as Camp Angelos, Arin’s House, the West Women’s and Children’s Shelter and the DePaul Treatment Center.
PSF also offers the First Step Keyboard Program (see pianos for schools), a free after-school program in Title I schools for beginning students. Without a grounding in early music education, PSF believes, students are less likely to pursue music education seriously. Since 2008, thanks to First Step, over 300 students have had their lives enriched by music.
“Placement of a piano in our home has opened doors to the world of music not only for [her] but also the rest of her family….I am sure her time spent in this program will continue to be a source of inspiration as she moves through life.” – Parent, PSF Scholarship Student
“I want to let you know again what a wonderful benefit to [our daughter] the use of the Kawai grand piano is. I can hardly imagine any more significant scholarship for her to have received at this stage of her life….The use of the [piano] has made a positive difference in [her] playing and her level of confidence as a performer.” – Parent, PSF Grand Scholarship Winner
“Thank you for the use of the beautiful piano you have granted to our adult day care center…It has truly been a blessing to us and has given our participants so much joy!…The therapeutic value of music seems to know no bounds…” – Activities Coordinator, Local Medical Center
“This is a wonderful program that supports the arts and nurtures the love of music to lower income and underprivileged children.” – Local Piano Instructor