IMC's Piano-a-thon is set to be grand

Island Music Center Executive Director Dave Bristow practices in preparation for this weekend’s Piano-a-thon. - Brad Camp | For the Review
Island Music Center Executive Director Dave Bristow practices in preparation for this weekend’s Piano-a-thon.
— image credit: Brad Camp | For the Review

Dave Bristow, Island Music Center’s Executive Director, has the look of a man holding a tiger by the tail.

IMC’s Piano-a-thon, which launches tonight, started out as an evening fundraiser, then expanded to include a few afternoon recitals. The calls from pianists kept coming in. Everybody wanted to be part of what has become possibly the most ambitious musical event Bainbridge Island has ever seen. They decided to add a day, and then another.

“It’s become a real event,” Bristow said with a hint of surprise.

There’s a waiting list now, but at some point, you have to draw the line. And that line is at 18 hours.


The Piano-a-thon idea was born when an opportunity arose to purchase a beautiful 1982 Yamaha C3 grand piano from a community member. Board member Bill Branley offered to front the down payment to facilitate the purchase, but the nonprofit music center would have to come up with the $13,500 it would cost to have the instrument delivered and serviced.

Besides the $10 suggested donation to hear Piano-a-thon acts this weekend, IMC is offering a “Key Contributor” opportunity. Sponsors pay $153 for one for the piano’s 88 keys.

Those keys will get a workout this weekend as more than a hundred musicians take the stage in a variety of ensembles playing everything from jazz to classic to contemporary. They all have one thing in common – the new piano as the centerpiece.

Several Bainbridge music teachers, such as Darden Burns, Claire Marshall and Akiko Iguchi, have enlisted their students to step into the spotlight for the occasion. The teachers, themselves, will get into the act as well. Bristow is expecting a box to arrive filled with CDs of Iguchi’s November performance. The place is abuzz with excitement.

The Salmon Canyon Cafe is geared up for what will surely be its busiest weekend yet since it opened in its new location in the center.

The “radical hospitality” is part of Bristow’s vision for the center to be a creative hang out for all ages, but in particular for youths with an interest in music, whether they’re taking formal lessons or not.

Bristow is picturing a casual ambiance where concert-goers can wander from the concert hall to mingle in the center’s lobby/social area, or grab a bite at the Salmon Canyon Cafe.

“It’s a bright spot,” Bristow said. “It’s important for the whole center.”

A bright spot indeed with its canary yellow walls and eclectic mood.

Kate Sloat, wrapping up after the lunch shift, said the cafe is “a fun place to work.”

The Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch and includes standard soup, salad and sandwich fare as well as daily specials such as the Salmon Chowder on the chalkboard last Tuesday. Still, it’s the music that will draw them in this weekend. Every hour, on the hour a new act will take the stage for a 45-minute set.

Bristow, whose personal grand has now been moved upstairs for classes, will perform with a jazz trio in its debut performance. He’ll also play a set of original music by (and with) Peter Spencer.

Ranger Sciacca, Anne Pell, Neil Conaty and Korum Bischoff, will offer their brand of gypsy jazz violin and piano ensemble with special guests. Sharon Acton will combine her strong vocals with Jim Quitslund on piano.

Branley will get his turn on the piano he helped bring to the center.

It’s lining up to be a grand event.

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