Tinkling Ivories Under the Dome

Perhaps one would not imagine a piano to be an essential part a public library. However, when a library is dedicated to enriching the culture and entertainment in a town, a piano may very well be not just a nice addition to the landscape, but a necessity.

Chris Ashmore, current director of the JPL shared that “the Under the Dome Series was started several years ago by former director Sharon Zuiderveld as a way to bring free concerts of excellent quality to area residents.” Beginning as mostly classical concerts, Ashmore has expanded the series to involve a variety of genres including folk, roots, Creole, pop, blues, Celtic, and more.

Ashmore stated that “entertainment and cultural enrichment are focuses of the library and music is a perfect example of this.” Thus, some of his future goals for music at the library include continuing the “Under the Dome” series and hosting a second year of “Bookstock: A Backyard Roots Music Festival” – an all-day Saturday event with folk/roots acts from critically acclaimed performers. This fall event was another example of the JPL’s enrichment of entertainment in Jacksonville.

With such a vision for his library, Ashmore has done well to procure outstanding performers, thus providing high-quality concerts for years to enrich culture and entertainment in the community. And thus, there was once a day when a grand piano was maneuvered up the elevator of the Jacksonville Public Library (JPL). Coming out of the living room of Rudi and Sharon Zuiderveld, it was an altogether unforgettable experience (with a staggering price tag) for the library staff to arrange the logistics of that musical afternoon.

There were also many sad days when rented keyboards were provided for the performing pianists in the Under the Dome concert series. While the audience was politely pleased with the piano music, and the performers had to admit that an electric piano was better than none, something was seriously lacking. Namely, if one is to host an outstanding concert, then one should procure an outstanding instrument. And under the library’s beautiful rotunda, matched with nationally acclaimed performers, as well as various local celebrities, the electric keyboards didn’t quite do the job.

Hence, it was a fantastic day in December 2016 when pianists came from all over town to put on the #480-Minute Miracle – eight hours of non-stop piano playing to raise funds to gift the library with a piano. The Source, The Soap Co. Coffee House, and individuals from the community banded together to make the fundraiser a smashing success.

Four months later, a lot has happened. In January, Anna Ferraro worked with Craig Boyd of Boyd Music to select an appropriate piano set up for the library. They settled on a beautiful Samick – right off the floor of Boyd’s store. In February, Boyd’s team got it set up, and Ted Rohde donated the first tuning of the new instrument. Since its first three months of living at the library, the piano has produced hours of music for the community in the library’s Under the Dome concert series. Success!

Beneath the fingers of Garrett Allman, Ken Bradbury, Caleb Holloway, and Anna Ferraro, the library’s piano created mesmerizing musical moments for the audiences that filled the space under the dome. The performing pianists heartily concurred that the Samick from Boyd was an unspeakably good improvement from the electric pianos that they had attempted their concerts on in the past. The quality of an instrument can fuel the quality of the performance, and all around, the new piano did just that.

When it’s not being used in concert, the piano is housed safely in Ashmore’s office – awaiting the moments when it will be wheeled to its position under the dome, and fill the library’s rotunda with sound.

And in the meantime, the Ashmore and the Friends of the Library continue to enrich culture and entertainment in Jacksonville in anyway they can. And this year, their to-do list has grown. Not only do they work to improve the quality of their institution and the services they offer, they have an additional item on their list. Piano tuning. For the ivories under the dome.

The Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to foster closer relations between the library and the community by providing financial and other support to the library. To join/support the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library, the costs are $10 for an individual membership, $20 for a family membership, and $100 for a lifetime membership. Applications are available at the library or through a Friends Board member.

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