It’s hard to fire pianos.
That’s what the organizers of Baker House’s annual Piano Drop learned this year, as the victim, a grand piano, fell six storeys off the Baker roofdeck and just missed a target on the ground.
Piano Drop has been held irregularly since the initial drop in 1972. The tradition, which commemorates Drop Date, returned in 2006 after a seven year hiatus, and it has been held annually since then.
This year’s Piano Drop had a festive air. The weather was sunny and warm, and students began to congregate on the Memorial Dr. side of Baker well before the 5:30 p.m. drop time to enjoy an outdoor pay-per-plate barbecue catered by Baker Dining.
Police officers were present to discourage cars passing on Memorial Dr. from being distracted by the event. Also in attendance was a video crew from a local television station.
As the time approached 5:30, anticipation grew. John V. Agard ’11 came because “a piano falling from a six story building sounds pretty exciting.” The organizers of the event, Howard D. Kellogg ’08 and George J. Courtsunis ’09, worked on the roof to prepare the piano for its demise. The piano was supplied by Delta Kappa Epsilon.
Finally, the piano was prepared, and the restless crowd chanted a countdown. After the shout of “one,” the grand piano was launched off the top of Baker’s roof.
A smaller, vertical piano was positioned on the ground, but the grand piano dropped from the roof barely clipped its target. As such, some students found the event to be less satisfying compared with prior Piano Drops.
Yuqiao Huang ’09 said “In past years it seemed to be more explosive and exciting.” Peter Lu ’11 said that the drop “was pretty lame.” Eren S. Sayan ’11 suggested “weaker pianos.”
Tim Zheng ’11 brought a prospective student he was hosting to Piano Drop. “We walked all the way from Stata to see the piano drop,” he said. “But we missed it,” he said, because they arrived late.
Although some were a bit disappointed, most still enjoyed the experience. Vanessa Oler, a junior at Brigham Young University visiting her friend Lihua Bai ’09 said “it was awesome.” Asked whether they do anything like Piano Drop at BYU, Oler said “no, you get fined an exorbitant amount of money if you even touch the roof.”
In 1978, the Committee on Academic Performance proposed to move the eleventh week drop date back to the fifth week of the term, with one drop allowed afterward. The proposal was defeated by two votes at a faculty meeting.
Most students at Piano Drop voiced their appreciation for MIT’s comparatively late Drop Date. Said Huang, “it gives people options and flexibility, which I both like.”
So what sound does a grand piano make when it drops 6 storeys from the roof of a dorm, anyway?
Shreyes Seshasai contributed reporting to this article.