Keys to the Streets: Woodward’s Summer Jam Session, July 11th

Keys to the Streets / Facebook

Keys to the Streets / Facebook

Music will fill the atrium at Woodward’s for the inaugural Keys to the Streets: Woodward’s Summer Jam Session on Monday, July 11. From 6 – 8 pm, an incredible line-up of local musical artists will gather to tickle the ivories and raise their voices in support of Keys to the Streets, a three-year old program that places painted pianos on the streets of Vancouver for everyone to encourage play over the summer.

Hosted by Westbank, the event will raise funds to care for 10 pianos that will be placed around the city, plus one travelling piano. The event will also introduce a new piano – the Imagine piano – inspired by John Lennon’s song, Imagine. It will be painted by local First Nations artist, Zola, and permanently placed in the Woodward’s atrium.

Other pianos are being painted in Maker Labs by local artists and hobbyists and will hit the streets on July 15. This year’s artists include Ilya Viryachev, Emily Gray, Kuetina and Erica Peng. Past contributing artists include Ola Vola, Alannah Hansen and Annie Williamson.

At Keys to the Streets: Woodward’s Summer Jam Session, musicians including Willa, Dan Moxom of Bend Sinister, The Ruffled Feathers and Colour the Wild, will christen the Woodward’s piano by putting it through its paces, and a surprise celebrity will also make an appearance to wind up the event. To add to the festivities, several Vancouver food trucks will be parked outside the venue and will be donating partial proceeds to Keys to the Streets.

Jam Session attendees are encouraged to register and donate $5 in advance at or make a contribution at the doors, which open at 5:30 pm.

Westbank founder Ian Gillespie, impressed by the program and its creation of community, decided to host the event in an effort to raise both profile and funds, and support expansion – this year in the form of the baby grand piano, which his company contributed.

“Music is such a powerful force, for both the listener and the person making it,” says Gillespie. “This program is using music as a means of making meaningful connections and building community. It speaks to the core of our company.”

Funds raised by the event go towards maintenance of the pianos, transporting them to the streets, and an honorarium for the artists who paint the pianos. In 2015, Keys to the Streets ran the program on $20,000, with significant contribution from Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), but funding needs are increasing as the pianos grow in both numbers and popularity.

The 10 painted pianos will remain on the streets from July 13 to September 15, inviting passersby to sit (or stand) and play. The communities in which they’re placed become very attached to the pianos, and a “community steward” or piano babysitter – sometimes several people – watches over it to ensure that it’s treated respectfully and cover it during Vancouver’s rains.

Program organizers say they’ve received heartwarming feedback from those who’ve availed themselves of the pianos. The instruments function as music therapy and as a community gathering place that encourages engagement.

“We are incredibly grateful to Westbank and the community of musicians who are donating their time and talent to our program – it is profound on many levels,” says Aaron Tilston-Redican, Co-Director, Keys to the Streets. “What is happening on July 11 – this coming together of people because of music, is the essence of Keys to the Streets.”

Keys to the Streets unofficially started in 2012 when one student put a piano in a park to gauge interest, which proved significant. In 2013, three pianos were placed, and in 2014, City Studio, an idea hub for students, community members and City of Vancouver staff, arranged to have 10 pianos placed on city streets.

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