When Austin Metropolis Limits taped its first present inside UT’s Studio 6A in 1974, a grand home piano sat firmly on the stage below the spell of musician Bobbie Nelson, whereas her famed brother Willie’s voice wailed. Because the present grew and totally different artists together with Ray Charles, Lyle Lovett and Fat Domino graced the present’s airwaves, one instrument — the 1911 Steinway and Sons piano — by no means moved.
Nonetheless, when ACL relocated manufacturing to The Moody Theater after 36 seasons in 2011, producers left the hefty ivories behind, fearing the piano wouldn’t survive the experience downtown. It remained in storage for 12 years, till longtime govt producer Terry Lickona stated he had a imaginative and prescient — caring for the piano himself.
“I didn’t count on them to present it to me, as I couldn’t afford to purchase it as a result of frankly, it’s priceless,” stated Lickona, a 45-year ACL veteran. “When Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters noticed it, he stated it must be within the Smithsonian, however I’ve this factor about placing devices below glass instances. It’s nice to take a look at, but it surely’s unhappy — it’s not nonetheless alive.”
Now, because of Lickona, the century-old piano, with some scratches however limitless character, fills his high-ceilinged, music memorabilia-filled residence with a perfectly-tuned ring, proving the instrument stays vigorous.
Making good on a promise, Lickona hosted the ACL workforce final week to showcase the resonant 88 keys and invite others to play. Properly-respected Austin musician Henri Herbert delivered a poignant set, and stated inserting his arms on these keys particularly culminated his dream.
“A few years in the past, I used to be residing in an English seaside city and I watched DVDs of ACL. … That was a part of what led me to come back to Austin,” Herbert stated. “It feels magical, form of mystical and religious. I’m not spiritual myself, however I think about that it seems like one thing otherworldly.”
The piano’s historical past could possibly be as majestic as its sound, however a lot stays unknown, in addition to that UT gave it to ACL on the present’s inception. Station archivist Liz Antaramian found most of the stars who performed the instrument, however stated she continues trying to find clues about its pre-ACL story.
“I’m hoping that from 1911 to 1974, possibly a pupil who wasn’t positive about whether or not music was for them performed it, or it was used for theater or choir the place it introduced pleasure,” Antaramian stated. “I’m hoping individuals attain out after they learn this text, and possibly say, ‘I used to be a pupil at UT in 1965, and I received to play on the piano throughout my lunch break.’”
Butler Faculty of Music professor John Mills stated he remembers the piano properly. The acclaimed jazz musician made appearances on ACL, even alongside Willie Nelson, and stated the piano’s second likelihood serves as a testomony to UT, the music franchise’s birthplace.
“The coed inhabitants had quite a bit to do with the character of the music scene … at a time when Austin on any given night time didn’t have a pair hundred venues,” Mills stated. “The power on campus, and definitely ACL, was a really particular factor.”
Honoring ACL’s particular legacy, Lickona introduced a $25,000 donation to the station on the reception. He stated the piano’s rediscovery marks solely the start of a memorable fiftieth anniversary season, as historical past’s longest-running music collection charts its future.
“I don’t need to get too carried away, but it surely’s like being born once more. We’re not solely giving individuals an opportunity to rediscover the piano, however uncover extra in regards to the present’s historical past,” Lickona stated. “Fifty is a giant milestone, and it’s a bridge to the longer term.”