Humans(?) of UK: Student center piano strikes a chord with UK students


Brady Saylor

A student plays the piano in the Gatton Student Center on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Brady Saylor | Staff

Grace Medley, Reporter

The Gatton Student Center is constantly teeming with people. Among the hustle and bustle of the daily commute, one thing remains constant — the building’s piano.

Across from Starbucks sits a lone piano, stationed snugly in the corner it calls home. It isn’t uncommon for students to be greeted with its music as they walk through the entryway.

Often overlooked as people come and go, the student center piano offers a creative respite to those so inclined.

Students and non-students alike have found joy in striking an impromptu tune. No previous experience is required – you don’t have to be a professional to indulge in a song. 

Junior biology and psychology major Norman Chan finds himself frequenting the piano. “There’s a therapeutic quality to music that makes the bad times good and the good times better,” he said.

These keys have been tickled by hesitant hands and deft digits. From classical pieces to adaptations of pop songs, the piano has played it all.

“I’m self taught and don’t know how to read music, so the easiest way for me to play is to write my own music,” Chan said.

Groups of friends have gathered round the formidable instrument, enjoying each others’ company as they play whatever comes to mind. Similarly, individuals have set down their sheet music and lost themselves in the creation of sound.

Jackson Greene, a freshman majoring in trumpet performance, said he visits the student center’s piano roughly once a week, playing everything from Broadway show tunes and 80s songs to Christian music. 

“I think it’s nice to have a way to express yourself,” Greene said of the piano. “Music is, I think, one of the best ways to express yourself.” 

Greene also said he thinks that a lot of students like to study next to the piano while someone is playing a melody.

Chan and Greene are not the only regular pianists, though. Students who regularly play have created a group chat after hearing each other’s music.

“The piano has become a great place of unity and community at UK. It’s no secret that music connects us all. I’ve probably met more people on the piano than at any other place on campus. Every year, I’m excited to see what new faces I’ll see in the student center lobby playing that old Steinway,” Chan said.

While the piano’s sound resonates throughout the building, its presence is understated.

Hearing a skillfully done sonata, nostalgic melody or all-time favorite track can alter anyone’s mood — even if the piano remains unnoticed.

Whether it be through the hushed awe of passersby as someone executes a piece with the skill of a maestro or the gleeful recognition of a television theme song, the piano has a little something to offer everyone.

The wide array of music the piano plays contributes to the ambience of the student center. It brings life to a place that students pass through every day.

Whether they’re an expert pianist or a novice looking to have some fun, the piano will be patiently waiting for students. Though it can’t speak, it invites newcomers to pick up the torch as the final notes of a finished song hang in the air, waiting.