Piano on a Truck
By Claudia Vallejo
Click aqui para español- > Piano sobre ruedas
Social distancing, banning crowds, and restriction of entertainment are in place. But who says that music must stop? Not in New Orleans! Put a 600-pound piano on a truck’s bed so that the show can go on.
Jacques Ferland loads a grand piano on his white truck, drives around, finds a corner of a park or the front of a house to park, and invites a pianist to play it. “Piano on a Truck,” Jacques’ idea, gave new birth to perform music during the pandemic.
Jacques Ferland is a Canadian native who calls New Orleans home. He has been fixing, tuning, and moving pianos for over 20 years. He started “Piano on a Truck” in the French Quarter in December of 2019. His idea did not work well at that time. A few months later, the pandemic hit, and Jacques decided to roll his piano on the truck again. “It is now or never,” he thought. This time, people loved it!
There are not exact days to catch a concert on Jacque’s truck. Its frequency depends on the weather. The piano can get easily damaged if it gets wet, and as he also remarks, “nobody wants to be in the rain. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” The best way to know when to catch a concert on wheels is to follow “Piano on a Truck” on Facebook.
On top of the white truck, the gold-painted piano on one side and red on the other is frequently seen at Coliseum park in the Lower Garden District. On a random Wednesday, adults, young people, and children sat to listen to Kristofer Tokarski playing Louis Armstrong’s tune “Two Deuces” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Sweet Substitute,” among other songs. It was a one-hour show. “The style of music that I play is traditional jazz piano. What people hear is a lot of what I would play ordinarily at a club,” says Kristofer.
Different musicians play regularly on “Piano on a Truck.” Kristofer Tokarski plays early jazz. Andre Bohren performs classical piano. Josh Paxton executes some of the great New Orleans pianist legends, and Joe Krown is also a New Orleans-style piano player. “It depends on what people want to hear,” explains Jacques.
Who could imagine that a truck could be used for something so fun? Jacques Ferland’s piano on a truck is already an iconic sight around New Orleans’s streets and old neighborhoods. “I feel that there will be a demand for it even when the bars open again. It is always nice to be outside,” asserts Jacques while he fixes the fifth piano that, like the other four before it, will end up on the back of his truck someday.