Floating Piano Project: An instrument for global kinship

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Already with international presence in Hong Kong, the Floating Piano Factory has spread its global connections to Peru thanks to its founder, and company representative in Peru, Eathan Janney. Offering free services to individuals as well as cultural and governmental institutions (Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy’s Mission in Peru, the Peruvian North American Cultural Center in Arequipa, and the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of Tacna), Janney and his team hope to show the piano is not just an instrument for melodic sound, but one for creating connections among global citizens.

In addition to providing people with a creative outlet regardless of cost, the Floating Piano Project will be having a free concert on March 22nd with a mediation concept to explore options outside of violence. Finally, there is a new project in the works about rebuilding a piano to donate to an organization or university that has a similar mission to the Floating Piano Factory.

_Living in Peru_ was able to ask Eathan Janney, the man behind this curious company, a few questions:

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_Eathan with Alvaro Salinas at Centro Cultural Peruano Norteamericano_

_Eathan, how long have you been working with pianos? Can you tell us a bit about Floating Piano Factory (FPF)?_

I have been tuning pianos for over 15 years and tuned pianos throughout the US, in cities including New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Washington DC, and New Orleans. The business, Floating Piano Factory, eventually started a program that connects piano lovers with affordable repair technicians in the New York area and now I am proud to say we have technicians in Peru (me) and in Hong Kong. The program has completely transformed from one state to an international platform that uses pianos to connect and unite people. I am hoping to continue this growth and add FPF technicians all over the world that are fixing pianos while building powerful relationships that can unite and add special value to people’s lives.

_How did you bring this project to Peru?_

This is my third time visiting Peru. I came in 2009 and 2013 as well to accompany my wife for her anthropology fieldwork here. Since my wife began her PhD program we were aware that she would eventually have to spend an extended visit in Peru…so I planned to finish my own PhD in time to join her here and to adapt my business to the change. Being unaware of the economics in Peru, pessimistic for the demand for piano work here, and wanting to engage in some creative endeavors after the rigors of my PhD, I developed the idea of the ambassador program.

Knowing that piano tuning is expensive and that the cost is often a barrier to an owner fully enjoying their instrument I have always sought creative ways to make piano tuning more accessible.

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_Eathan fixes a piano with help_
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And FPF’s services are free?_

My idea was that, with a bit of income from our operations in NY, and the low cost of living in Peru, it might be possible to offer some work for free. However it is very important to understand that at the same time I would look to create maximum value for all involved in these encounters.

we all know that there is value in life beyond money. We say it—that love, friendship, health, knowledge, and well-being all have value. But it was appealing to create a project where these alternative forms of value were truly highlighted and brought to the forefront. Hence, when I visit a piano in Peru, I seek to profit within these other realms. For example, I take advantage of the opportunity to practice Spanish, learn about culture and history, and enjoy the increased intimacy of relationships that can occur when money is set aside. Of course, I know that these are things that I gain from this project now. However, when I first got started I took it on faith that these opportunities would arise.

_What was the experience like to start a company in a foreign country, offering relatively unheard of services?_

It was a matter of being extremely resilient to failure. I had to approach strangers with this idea using broken Spanish and risk them misunderstanding. I have to withstand the economic hardship of draining cash for a period of time. I had to invest time and energy into documenting and promoting the project without knowing if it would be successful. Finally, I had to find out if the project would be as fulfilling and interesting as I had hoped.

My first attempt in the project was to ask to work with a piano at a hotel in Lima I was at. This was an abortive attempt but a great learning experience. Then I was surprised to find a piano in a bookstore that my wife was shopping at in Lima. Again, I was not able to work on the piano due to our imminent departure to our new and more permanent home in Arequipa, but there was enthusiasm from the bookstore for me to return. We did not know if I would. Eventually I did and this turned out to be one of the richest experiences so far in the program.

There is still a bit of a cash crunch at the moment but I and the business are surviving and even thriving—we just were written up in the Wall Street Journal for our apprentice program.

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_The finished product_

Can you tell us more about the free concert on March 22?

[It will be] held the day after, and in honor of, the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. This free concert will have a deep meditative focus around violence, fear, hope and peace. It is my hope to use music and meditation to bridge the gap between people in Peru and the US and inspire unity. I also have a piano refurbishing project in the works. I am interested in fully refurbishing a piano and donating it to an organization or school that can benefit from it. I am currently looking for partnerships to get the necessary resources to refurbish a piano. This project has educational aims and I seek to involve the community, especially students and underprivileged members of the community.

Where do you see FPF going in the near future? What are your ultimate goals for the company?

Within the past year I decided to focus on an ambitious personal mission: to perform a series of bold creative acts that through their implausibility inspire a mass sense of duty to overcome fear and subdue violence.

The ultimate (implausible) goal is to turn Floating Piano Factory into a global organization value at 1 trillion dollars by the end of 2016. The activities of FPF and myself are necessarily out of the ordinary and meant to spark interest. More than increasing the monetary value of the company though we hope that our projects can help people become more deeply connected and be inspired to take the chances in life that have the potential to add the most meaning to their lives and the lives of others. We know that fear breeds violence and that fear-driven conflicts between cultures and individuals are some of the most problematic, yet solvable issues we are faced with currently. We hope to do our part to raise awareness of this fact and contribute to the solutions through our work.

We also realize that the value of our platform lies in its ability to facilitate education in a way that is most useful and profitable to both students and the marketplace. As FPF expands into the far future and becomes a larger force we see ourselves with the role of educational and economic facilitators in areas far beyond piano technology.

For more information visit the Floating Piano Factory online or on Facebook small piano company based in Brooklynn, NY, has arrived in Peru with big plans for social work. Read on for details of an upcoming concert.

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Agnes Rivera

A U.S. native plucked from the green surroundings of her home state of Oregon, Agnes Rivera has been living in Lima, Peru, fulfilling various occupations such as teaching, translating, and journalism. While indoors she uses her time creatively to build "recycled art" and read fiction, she is quick to use any excuse to be outdoors, balancing her inner home-body lifestyle with an adventurous spirit to explore all that Peru has to offer.