Classically Trained: Calling all pianists and sopranists


SANTA ANA — In a cluttered South Coast Metro warehouse, 15 pianos were scattered about. On that Wednesday morning, the soul of Chopin emanated from one of them from the skills of Gabriel Stevens.

The 21-year-old Pacific Symphony intern and Cal State Fullerton music student was on hand for the last day of a seemingly unconventional art project: painting those 15 pianos destined for music-making throughout the county.

Those and five others — 20 in total — are just one segment of the Costa Mesa-based Pacific Symphony’s three-part promotion that’s part impromptu playing, part planned performance and part “American Idol.”


The pianos, which were donated by the likes of Yamaha, Kawai and generous individuals, will soon be scattered throughout Orange County to comfortably rest in public places for the promotion’s first act, “OC Can You Play?” They were adjusted, tuned and made ready for free by the Piano Technicians Guild.

The Newport-Mesa area has six of them: three in South Coast Plaza (Carousel Court, Jewel Court and Macy’s Home Store Wing), one at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, one at the OASIS Senior Center and one at The Lab. The other county locations are at and range from north county Brea to south county San Juan Capistrano.

The public is invited to play these decorated pianos through Feb. 6. From the novice to professional, the symphony is accepting video submissions of “OC Can You Play?” performances on its Facebook and YouTube pages. There will be a “best video” award as well. Pianists are also welcome to submit their performance times and locations at

To top it off, eager travelers who visit all 20 countywide piano locations can win a chance for symphony season ticket packages. Picture proof and/or check-ins on are required. Or just visit three of the locations and earn 20% off a symphony ticket purchase. E-mail Kelly Dylla at for more information.

The other two parts of the promotion are “OC Can You Sing?” and “OC Can You Play With Us?” If you’ve got a voice like Paula Abdul or Frank Sinatra, submit it to Chosen finalists will compete at a symphony pops concert alongside “American Idol” finalist Katharine McPhee March 17 to 19.

Lastly, amateur musicians age 24 and up can apply to play with the Pacific Symphony onstage in a rehearsal and mini-performance of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Registration for that opens Feb. 15 and is first-come, first-served. E-mail Molly Pontin at for details.

A launch event for “OC Can You Play?” will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday in the Jewel Court at South Coast Plaza. It will feature food and performances from the Irvine’s Yamaha Music Center.

When not listening to Stevens play Chopin, Gershwin and Grieg, I perused the warehouse’s pianos. I surmised that the county’s music lovers are going to be impressed by their varied styles. Even Libby Farley, the symphony’s production manager, got in the painting fun and made her piano psychedelic green.

Stevens said the pianos range in age from new to made in 1902. He said he wants to visit all 20. Hearing that gave me the idea to visit a few, too, just to see how Newport-Mesans fare on the pianoforte. I’ll be on the lookout and visiting some of them in the coming weeks, maybe taking some material from those visits for a future column.

I’m no pianist myself — the “class of the brass” French horn is more my thing — but I do give requests. So if you can assemble an “impromptu,” well-rehearsed orchestra and play Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major” at the OASIS Senior Center, send me a line. I’d call in sick to hear that.

Otherwise, I’d be quite happy hearing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” No orchestra required.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at