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Pianos In History: Music Through Tough Times

This photo depicts an impromptu concert in the American ward in a hospital in Glasgow, Scotland during World War I in November, 1918. According to the Library of Congress, the Scots have been placing musical instruments in hospitals for hundreds of years, with the thought that music lifts the spirit and soul.

Apparently, after this American ward was opened there was not a single patient who could play the piano for a while. Then, a convoy of wounded arrived with two good pianists in the bunch, and the ward was filled with music.

We wonder how many modern hospitals feature full size, acoustic instruments for public use. While advancements in music therapy since the early 20th century have improved greatly, is there a carefree, community option for music in healthcare spaces? Let us know if you know of any examples.


After some research, we found that Duke University in Durham, North Carolina features (or featured, pre-COVID era) a piano in the lobby, and as of a few years ago, was played professionally every Tuesday. As the article linked above details, "As hospital staff and visitors sit in plush chairs of the Duke Hospital lobby, checking phones or taking a snack break, William Dawson slides onto a piano bench and plays the beginning chords of “Across the Universe.” During Dawson’s two-hour performances on Thursdays, children in wheelchairs shyly approach and request “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Dawson strikes up conversations with listeners and hands them a songbook of 200 songs, from Beatles to 1940s jazz hits, encouraging them to pick a favorite. When he’s not performing in the lobby, Dawson visits patients, playing a variety of instruments. He’s played “Happy Birthday” on an accordion for a patient who received a serious diagnosis."

Music can bring us together and provide an escape. During tough times, transporting yourself to a lighter moment through a ballad, a carol, or a funky piece of jazz... that's what gets us through and makes us feel connected. Schaeffer's is here for you if you'd like to purchase a new or used piano, or get that inherited instrument tuned and ready for the new year.


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