Image of a public piano, part of the In the Key of Davis program.
Picture of The Dirt

The Dirt

Davis’ free-use public pianos return for the dry season

BY: Barbara Archer, City of Davis

The City of Davis is pleased to announce the 10th annual In the Key of Davis, a program that provides free public pianos for recreational music-making and merriment at the following community locations:

  • Central Park (corner of Third and C Streets)
  • Davis Commons (500 First Street)
  • Davis Food Co-Op (620 G Street)
  • G Street Plaza (between Second and Third Streets)
  • Hunt-Boyer Plaza (corner of Second and E Streets)
  • Manetti Shrem Museum of Art (245 Old Davis Road on the UC Davis campus)
  • Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library (315 E. 14th Street)
  • Wyatt Deck (UC Davis Arboretum)

The pianos will be available starting June 10 and will remain accessible until wet weather returns in the fall. In the Key of Davis offers a space for improvisational gatherings, spontaneous connections and celebrations of music. All pianos in the program have been donated by community members.

The public piano program has seen people of all ages and skill levels enjoying the opportunity to engage in music making and experimentation over the past nine years. Participants are encouraged to send their photos and videos of public piano playing to In the Key of Davis to expand the reach of each tune; email:, Facebook: IntheKeyofDavis, Instagram: @key_of_davis.

Not only do the pianos offer public access to music making and listening, they also present a chance each year for students to design and paint the used pianos for community enjoyment. This year’s piano collection includes four newly painted pianos by local elementary, middle, high school and college students. Art teacher Sarah Hohmann presented the project to her Arts & Ceramics class, where eighth-grader Karis Wright painted the theme “Frogs in Space” as an independent project.

“Karis loved working on the piano and put so much care into taping the piano keys to protect them, making sure she had neatly painted edges and fun/dramatic colors,” said Sarah Hohmann. “She enjoyed painting outside and having total creative freedom.” 

Additionally, Amy George’s classroom of 6th grade students at Birch Lane Elementary, Kyle Monhollen’s art students at Davis Senior High School and the students at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art also added their freshly decorated pianos to the Davis summer landscape. 

“Music is a natural bridge-builder in society, and it is so gratifying to see the joy in the community when a piano is played in a public space,” said Mayor Josh Chapman. “I look forward to hearing the music at all the piano locations this summer.”

In the Key of Davis was launched in 2015 as the brainchild of two local teenagers, Isabelle and Hailey Shapiro, who experienced a similar program while visiting another city. The Shapiro family has been coordinating the program ever since, and works with the City each year to introduce new pianos and locations.

Learn more about the program, view its history and enjoy photos and video of players of every kind on Facebook at: For questions regarding this program, contact Rachel Hartsough at: or 530-747-5640.

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