When Alex Townsend passed away tragically at the age of 21, parents Tom and Jeanne Townsend decided to honor their son by continuing his legacy of music, art, and encouragement to others. Alex was an avid musician who grew up playing music and going to concerts. Music always provided him with a creative outlet that too few young people have today. Today the Townsends honor Alex through Pianos for People, a public 501-c3 non-profit organization.
In December of 2012, Pianos for People began delivering free, quality pianos to people who could not afford one on their own. In the short time we have been operating, we have already sourced, serviced, and delivered over 150 pianos to people and community organizations all over the St. Louis metropolitan area. In the fall of 2014 we opened a free music school on Cherokee Street in South St. Louis, where we provide free piano lessons. We currently have over 80 students, of all ages, enrolled.
Since opening the school, our work has further expanded beyond free pianos and free piano lessons to piano camps and special community- building events, which bring a diversity of people from various backgrounds together around the piano. To date, we have served over 3,400 people.
A piano is more than a piano.
A piano in the home represents hope and possibility. Such possibilities as knowing an alternative world defined by imagination, exploration and wonder. Or discovering an emotional safe haven from bullying and other social pressures. Or, finding a new way to introduce calm to the household as a long day turns into night. And that’s just the beginning. Experts in Education, Childhood Development and the Social Sciences will tell you music at home invites much more.
A piano opens doors to intellectual and emotional growth. It has been well documented that music study improves IQ, verbal memory, literacy, mathematics, self confidence and visio-spatial processing. And perhaps even more importantly, in these times marked by violence at home and school, it improves empathy – the ability to feel and understand the feelings of others.
Lessons provide more than lessons.
A recent national report indicated that up to 25% of school-age children are caring for themselves after school. Children who are unsupervised after school are in danger of becoming victims of crimes or accidents. They are at higher risk of substance abuse, gang involvement, teen pregnancy and dropping out.
This time is known as the “critical hours”— the time of day when young people are most likely to commit crimes or become a victim of crime. Through regular, free piano lessons at Pianos for People, we provide more than the calming power of music; we make available a safe place to go after school, complete with a healthy after-school snack.
Making a Difference Four Ways
Inspiration: Free Pianos
There are thousands of people who could benefit from a piano, and thousands of quality pianos ready to get back to work. We give pianos to families, community organizations, under-funded schools, veterans, the elderly and many others. We have now sourced and delivered more than 240 pianos to people in the St Louis Community.
Education: Free Lessons
Our free music school at 3138 Cherokee in the city provides piano lessons, group lessons, concerts, recitals, master-classes, special events and more. Lessons are generally after school and on Saturdays. Our enrollment is currently over 140 students of all ages.
Community: Piano Camps
Our free summer piano camp reaches young people of varying levels of experience. The school becomes more than a place to learn piano; it serves as a safe and welcoming place for children who don’t have many options with school closed over the summer break. We serve over 140 youth in our summer camp programs.
Enrichment: Free Events
Super Theory Saturdays, Piano Plus, Piano Slams and Recitals are all free events, open to the entire community. They reinforce to our students what is taught during the week, and inspire the community through live music and special guests.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Tom Townsend, Co-Founder and President
Tom Townsend is Co-Founder of Rodgers Townsend/DDB, a prominent St. Louis advertising agency. Prior to starting Rodgers Townsend, Tom was Senior Vice President/Group Creative Director at DMB&B/St Louis.
Tom serves on the Board of Outreach International, and with wife Jeanne, founded The Alex Townsend Memorial Foundation after the loss of their eldest son in 2010.
Tom, a jazz and blues pianist, has taught as visiting professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA, and graduated cum laude from Duke University.
"There's nothing like seeing a child react to seeing her own real, authentic, acoustic piano being carried through her front door. This is the kind of gift that creates a sea of change in a household. It's not like a keyboard from a big box retailer that ends up in a closet. It's an agent of significant change."
Jeanne Knowles Townsend - Co-Founder and Vice-President
Jeanne Knowles Townsend is a St. Louis attorney and provisional Court Judge in St. Louis County. She is Board Chair of the Oliverian School in Hanover, New Hampshire, and serves on the Board of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company.
As an attorney, Jeanne practiced Maritime Law as the first female partner of Goldstein and Price in St. Louis. She is licensed to practice in both Missouri and Illinois. Her passion continues to be education, particularly for creative kids struggling and often overlooked by traditional education.
Patricia Eastman, Co-Founder and Secretary
Patricia Eastman is on the piano faculties of St. Louis University and Webster University where she is founder and co-director of the Webster Piano Ensemble Festival and Classical Piano Camps. In 2000, Ms. Eastman formed the professional piano duo, Duo Albireo, with colleague Donna Vince. They perform regularly in and around the St. Louis area.
She holds a BM in Piano Performance and MM in Performance and Pedagogy. Pat maintains a successful private teaching studio, is former Vice President of the St Louis Area Music Teachers Association, and an in-demand judge for piano festivals and competitions.
"Playing the piano is about process and persistence; about the synthesis of mind and heart. It improves IQ, math skills and spatial relationships. It's a vocation and an avocation to last a lifetime."
Hope Horn, Treasurer
Hope has served in leadership roles for Famous Barr, and the Brown Shoe Company in St. Louis since 1999. Most recently, she was SVP/General Manager for Brown Shoe, leading a team supporting 250 shoe stores across the US and Canada.
She currently is Chairperson of the Advisory Board of the Textile and Apparel Management school of the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Hope started piano lessons at a young age and her early remembrances are infused with music, with accomplished pianists on her father’s side of the family. After graduating from Brown University with a BA in Music, she continued her lifelong study of the instrument, and still takes lessons and performs in small recitals.
“I was lucky to be born into a home with a piano in the living room, and a father whom I listened to playing every night after work. Not only does music enrich your soul, but it forms a unique familial bond that spans generations. My childhood piano sits in my niece’s living room today.”
James E. Butler, Director
A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia University Law School, James’ love affair with the Arts began with his collegiate studies of Greek literature and its playwrights. His legal career started in Philadelphia and then to Atlantic City where James served as Vice President & General Counsel for Harrah's Atlantic City and later Harrah's Nevada in Las Vegas. After serving as corporate counsel for Argosy Gaming Company, James retired from the active practice of law and taught Western Civilization, World History and American History at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois.
James studied in South America as an AFS exchange student when he was 16 and has traveled extensively. Decades later, he is actively engaged in helping international high school students come to America and encouraging American students to study abroad through the various AFS programs. A lifelong lover of the Arts, James is the Board President of The St. Louis Black Repertory Company (“The Black Rep”) which is one of the most prestigious African American theater companies in the nation and the only one that has provided 39 seasons of continuous performances.
Mark Golde, Director
Mark and two business partners built Forward Research, Inc., a custom marketing research firm focused on providing strategic marketing insights to support new product concept development, market positioning, branding and messaging. Fortune 500 clients include Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Bayer and Monsanto. In 2008, the firm of 25 employees was sold to Ipsos, 3rd largest global marketing research firm worldwide, and Mark continued as a Sr. Vice President. In a prior life, Mark obtained an education degree and taught in a public elementary school setting.
Although not one musically talented bone in his body, Mark loves all types of music and attends the Chautauqua Institution music festival annually, enjoying classical, voice, and master classes on the grounds of Chautauqua. Mark is currently involved in St. Louis community policing and predatory lending task forces to address recommendations that came out of the Ferguson Commission.
Mark graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from The Colorado College and has an MBA, with a concentration in marketing, from Washington University in St. Louis.
PIANOS FOR PEOPLE STAFF
Sheena Duncan, Executive Director
Sheena Duncan has steep experience in non-profit management, strategy, development, financial management and event production, gained in her adopted Australia and native Canada. She has a track record of success in growing organizations, and has held senior management positions with leading cultural organizations including; the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, National Institute of Dramatic Art, Australia (NIDA), National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Alberta Theatre Projects. She studied Music at the University of Toronto and piano at the highest level through the Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada. Sheena moved to St. Louis from Sydney, Australia in 2013 and has been their foundation Executive Director since January 2014.
Kayia Smith, Piano School Director
Kayia Smith studied music at Southeast Missouri State University and Florissant Valley Community College, and business at Lindenwood University. She taught music for 7 years in the Riverview Gardens School District (Grades K-12) and has worked as a church pianist for 23 years in the St. Louis area. She previously owned and operated a music school for 9 years where she serviced well over 400 students offering instruction in: piano, voice, guitar and drums. She is passionate about music, and loves to work with people and inspire them musically. She views music as a universal language we can all learn to speak. Kayia joins Pianos for People in June 2014.
Amy Seibert, Master Teacher & Development Co-ordinator
Amy Seibert earned her Masters degree in Piano Pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma and her Bachelors degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at Butler University. Her teachers include Kate Boyd (Butler University), Jeongwan Ham (University of Oklahoma), Karen Thickstun, Barbara Fast, and Jane Magrath. She is a former faculty member at Oklahoma Baptist University and worked as a graduate assistant at the University of Oklahoma. She worked as a sabbatical replacement at Wayne State College, and adjunct instructor Southwestern Illinois College. She is a current member of Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA), member and former presenter for Music Teacher National Association (MTNA). She is also an instructor for MetroEast Music Together, and Music Director at Lovejoy United Presbyterian Church in Wood River, IL. Amy enjoys working with as many types of students as she can, seeking to explore music from the unique perspective that each person can bring.
She is also part of the PFP Administrative team to co-ordinate piano donations and provide fund-development support.
Pianos for People engages seven highly qualified, warm and nurturing piano teachers who work according to our need and their availability. We have over 140 regular students at our flagship Cherokee location, and a further 30 at our Ferguson Satelitte Studio.
CO-FOUNDING BUSINESS PARTNER
Joe Jackson, Co-Founder
Joe Jackson and Morgan Cameron Co-Founded Jackson Pianos. Joe is a proud member of the Piano Technicians Guild. Jackson Pianos is also actively involved in community building and has initiated multiple childrens' events while working with universities to further piano knowledge and love of the instrument. Joe and Jackson Pianos were integral to the establishment and execution of our piano donations and delivery program, and positioned Pianos for People well for success as it has grown and become more independent.
Spirit of St Louis Womens Fund profiles 2017 Grant Recipient Pianos for People Enter the copy for the post here… read more
SEPTEMBER 2017 NEWSLETTER HERE Our 200th Piano Delivery in the news, successful summer camps and a thriving new semester! read more
Musical non-profit offers pianos and lessons to those in need read more
RIVERFRONT TIMES highlights the work of Pianos for People read more
Thank you Nicole Plegge for a beautifully written piece, and for sharing our story. READ ST LOUIS PARENT MAGAZINE HERE read more
PFP Wins ARTS INNOVATOR AWARD, article in PEOPLE.COM and more uplifting stories. JULY NEWSLETTER read more
Help bring the transformative power of music to those whose lives need it most https://givestlday.org/npo/pianos-for-people read more
PFP Feature and Video, Post-Dispatch Sunday Feb 28 read more
Enjoy a day in the life of Pianos for People and meet some of our wonderful students and piano recipients. PFP Year End Video read more
Last week almost 150 supporters of Pianos for People enjoyed 10 great piano performances at the new KDHX venue in Grand Center. Our third annual 100 Fingers fundraiser generated funds that will help u… read more
EVENING OF 100 FINGERS THE EVENT HAS SOLD OUT, WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY DISAPPOINTMENT The Stage at KDHX, 3524 Washington Avenue, Grand Center. For further information call Sheena Dun… read more
There was a full house of proud parents and friends at the end of year Student Recital at Pianos for People on Saturday May 23rd. It was inspiring to hear how far the students had come in just … read more
Pianos for People is proud to thank Emerson for renewing their support with a generous donation of $10,000. This gift translates into 14 quality pianos sourced, serviced, and delivered to families and… read more
Pianos for People will be hosting Free Summer Piano Camps for young people ranging in ages from 7 - 18 years, from total beginners through to intermediate players, and for those who just want to learn… read more
Pianos for People News Over 100 pianos, 50 students and honouring our supporters! Enjoy the first issue of our quarterly newsletter. read more
A free community event, open to pianists of all levels and to those who just want to learn more and enjoy the piano. Some of St Louis' finest pianists perform and share their licks and tricks! read more
Washington Post summarizes what piano practice does for you...turns out our parents were right. read more
http://www.ksdk.com/story/entertainment/2015/02/17/donate-your-piano-to-pianos-for-people/23562521/ read more
In early February, Pianos for People delivered its 100th free piano to a delighted family, who are also taking lessons at our free piano school in Cherokee. In 2014, our second year of operation… read more
Please take a moment to watch this video on Pianos for People that brings to life the problems we solve, and witness the kind of impact we are having every day. Why this matters read more
Thanks to the Siteman Family Foundation, Pianos for People refurbished its Cherokee location in mid-2014 (with additional in-kind support from Lawrence Group Architects and Roeser Construction) to acc… read more
Pianos for People has opened the doors to its newly refurbished Piano School on Cherokee Street. We are very grateful for the generous support of Lawrence Group Architects and Roeser Constructio… read more
Eight of St Louis' finest pianists and two superb young singers combine forces to perform classical and light classical music including popular works for two pianos and eight hands. This exictin… read more
Eight of St Louis' finest pianists and two superb young singers combine forces to perform classical and light classical music including popular works for two pianos and eight hands. This exictin… read more
These kids are excited to start playing their new piano, thanks for the donation! read more
This old Palmer piano got some new parts in the shop and a new and happy owner. read more
I cannot thank you enough!!!! What an extraordinary surprise; better than winning the lottery! Our children and teachers today were all so excited. Music is an amazing gift in the life of a child. I h… read more
Joshua is 5 and wants to play the piano with his grandmother who likes to sing. His dad is a piano player as well and is teaching Joshua, he has been playing every day this week. read more
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/college-essay-high-school-senior-into-every-ivy-league-university-2014-4#ixzz30qnw8oDy read more
Verna grew up playing the piano but after her downstairs flooded some years back she hasn’t had one to play. She had her sheet music all ready to go when we arrived to deliver her piano an… read more
I cannot thank you enough!!!! What an extraordinary surprise; better than winning the lottery! Our children and teachers today were all so excited. Music is an amazing gift in the li… read more
Hi, friends! Hope you’ll join me for an evening of music and musing on love in this age of scarcity, part of The Presenters Dolan Gaslight Allows dermatologist finding will shampoos phener… read more
We received the piano today. And we are overwhelmed! It is beautiful. My son has pretty much played nonstop for the last five hours! We are still in a bit of a state of disbelief that we are now the p… read more
http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/397596/3/Pianos-for-People-gives-music-to-those-in-need read more
Congratulations Carla Rush on your free acoustic piano from Pianos for People. read more
All of your commitment, stamina and votes helped us get the grant necessary to place more unused pianos into St. Louis households that cannot afford such an instrument themselves. Thank you all so ver… read more
Plan to join St. Louis musicians of all kinds at the Wine Press on Olive, near the Central West End, for to (at least) pianists performing all styles of music to help us raise funds. Dinner and bar in… read more
NOW YOU CAN VOTE to help us receive a $20,000 grant from Monsanto! Please click on the link below and select “Putting Unsold Pianos with Children, Families and the Elderly.” Thank you all … read more
Thanks to Mr. Wilmes for this cool little video of the delivery of his family's piano. http://vimeo.com/65511670 read more
Jamal is 9. He’s a new student. The song he’s playing shows great constraint from rushing, measured beat and rhythm, and even some dynamics. Simple composition, but effectively getting Jam… read more
Even Fats Waller gave up the piano bench for Art. See why. read more
http://www.latimes.com/local/la-et-pianos-pictures-photogallery.html read more
A great TedX speech about how your childhood creative confidence affects your adult life. read more
Theres a strong sense of personal power a kid can feel when he or she discovers they can create art. CLICK-ON-THESE-WORDS-TO-WITNESS-HIS-FIRST-SONG read more
From the New York Times: Joyce Hasselberth 18 AND UNDER: Early Music Lessons Have Longtime Benefits When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. R… read more
www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/9966195/Five-famous-pianos-that-have-leapt-in-value.html read more
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/harlem-grandest-gain-article-1.1293353 read more
The keys to community togetherness 'Play me, I'm Yours' takes pianos to the streets of Los Angeles County for three weeks for anyone to play. http://www.latimes.com/local/la-et-pianos-pictures-photo… read more
"Given what we have since learned about life in the Nazi camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music?" Fastinating piece. Read it. http://www.bostonconser… read more
From The New York Times (July 30, 2012): For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump A century after the peak of American piano manufacturing, the dump is increasingly becoming the destination … read more