Hoagy Carmichael’s Piano

Here is just a little anecdote that I’d love to tell – it exemplifies the trials of a conflicting worlds and values of the artist career.

RunThrough_158Just last week, I played the piano at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis for their Friday Happy Hour. The Columbia Club is a private club with restaurant, hotel, banquet space, and much more right in the center of the city – membership is a privilege valued at a high price. The baby grand piano in the lobby is actually an Apollo piano that Bloomington’s own Hoagy Carmichael used to own.  It is displayed there with some pictures and historical information and the pride of the club.  A lesser known fact is that Hoagy’s dance group was actually invited to perform at the club while Hoagy was still a law student at Indiana University. He had recently discovered the new sounds of jazz oozing north from New Orleans and integrated some into his repertoire.  The Columbia Club management thought that the jazz influence was too advanced and out of order and fired his group. Of course, later Hoagy made a name for himself as a great songwriter and Hollywood star and he became a valued guest at the club and the donation of the piano made him a special hero.

I usually play once a month at the club and the Happy Hour clientele enjoys some free appetizers and usually is appreciative of the music and the opportunity to mingle. This particular night the Cabaret at the Columbia Club had a performance and lots of people were coming in early for a drink in preparation for an enjoyable evening.  They enjoyed the music and good company. Soon they moved upstairs and the foyer got quiet.  I set up my phone and played a special rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s own Georgia on his piano to be broadcasted to the world via Facebook. During the performance some walked by, some kissed, some commented – upload complete. With about 10 minutes left for the evening, a lady approached me. “Could you please turn down – your music interferes with the concert upstairs?” I mentioned that a grand piano doesn’t have a volume control and that I will be leaving in just a moment. She asked again if I could turn down – and I said I’ll leave. Apparantely she thought I just didn’t cooperate and got mad – walking away with a “That’s louder now” and I in turn gave up and left (time was up).

The irony of the situation occurred to me though while the valet personnel fetched my car.  Positive comments on the performance kept coming in on Facebook – many likes, where is it, wow, great music, etc – while in reality the music now had become an interference. The value of our expression is highly dependent on the environment, the audience, and the circumstances – a highly valued object for one may be a piece of junk for someone else – and we are the curators to finding the right balance for our value proposition.