A Drop in the Fall: 88 Keys, 66 Feet, 1 Bruno

by Joe McGonegal on October 28, 2013 · 2 comments

in Campus Culture, Events, Hacks

The Piano Technicians Guild attributes the beautiful sound of a piano to “the remarkable blending of such materials as wood, metal, buckskin, and wool. Together they create a uniquely timeless sound that no other instrument in the world can duplicate.”


Preparations. Photo: Kate Hoagland.

The residents of Baker Hall hear a different sound.

Standing at the base of the 66-foot high residence hall on Friday, or on any of the other fifty or so occasions of the Baker House Piano Drop since 1972, one hears the Bruno, that unique sound only heard when a piano makes its swan-song dive from the storied dorm. (The measurement also represents the volume of earth vacated by the piano’s divot.)

It’s a remarkable blending of materials unlike that which the Guild intentioned, perhaps, but one that puts smiles on hundreds of faces.

Friday’s drop, on a crisp cool autumn afternoon, did not coincide with drop-day necessarily, but was a special treat for parents, alumni, and friends visiting for Family Weekend.

88 keys, 66 feet, 1 bruno.

The piañata plays one last song.

Inside this year’s piano was another treat: hundreds of Halloween candies, which added color to the piano’s descent, gave spectators who missed out on keys or dampers or pedals something else to take away.

This year’s piano was donated by John Keklak ’81, SM ’82 and Claudia Buser ’81, PhD ’92, who bought it for their daughter at a church fundraiser but soon realized it was beyond repair. “It was an honor to have our piano accepted for the drop,” said Keklak. “I lived in New House, but I’m sure I attended a couple drops in my day.”

Matt Basile, class of 2017, emceed Friday’s drop from the roof through a bullhorn. Basile wondered aloud whether to call this year’s piano a piañata?

While waiting for Baker residents to return from classes to partake in the drop, Basile entertained the crowd with some requisite piano humor, a few false countdowns and a collective wave to the news chopper overhead.

When the time at last came, the sounds of gasps and cheers and horns on Memorial Drive gave way to the one they’d all waited for, the Bruno. It, too, is a uniquely timeless sound.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Arnold Griffith December 8, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Does anyone know the piano sort of ragtime piece accompanying the Piano Drop?


Kate Hoagland December 30, 2013 at 9:41 am

Hi Arnold –
We used royalty-free ragtime music from Incompetech.


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