Music of Moran: Shared Piano Brings Out UNCG Students’ Talent

Posted on April 25, 2024

UNCG student Phoenyx Raiola plays piano in Moran Commons.

Music can be heard from one end of UNC Greensboro’s Moran Commons to the other – from the doors to College Avenue and up the stairs to Fountain View Dining Hall. It’s all thanks to UNCG students who like to share their favorite tunes at the community piano in the center of the building.

On any given day, one might stumble across an impromptu concert of chart-topping hits, video game soundtracks, or niche favorites. There are no rules for who can play the piano, what they can play, or when.

The idea for a public piano is something Madelyn Good, a third-year computer science student, has had for quite a while. She requested this piano at the end of last semester and was surprised by how easy it was to bring the School of Music staff and leadership on board with her idea.

Good feels that music helps students de-stress and wants them to express their talent and skill. “Walking around Moran Commons almost every single day and seeing friends or complete strangers collaborating at the piano with each other, is just a beautiful thing.”

Songs from the Heart of Campus 

Good grew up playing violin and piano in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and initially came to UNCG to study music education. She changed her major to computer science, but she retains a deep appreciation for all kinds of music. While touring college campuses, she’d had a positive encounter with a “public piano” on another campus, and she wanted the UNCG community to share in that benefit, playing and adding music to the everyday experience.

UNCG's piano technician Stephen Duncan tunes a piano.
Stephen Duncan, School of Music piano technician

As a previous music major, Good knew the practice rooms in the School of Music – positioned on the northeastern corner of the main campus across the bridge through Peabody Park – are a far walk for students who do not have a reason to go there. She felt the University needed a piano in a central location.

Before installing the piano, a survey was made available in the practice rooms, letting students vote on where to place the piano. “There were about 80 responses,” says Good. “Moran Commons won by about 20 votes. Moran Commons just felt like a good spot.”

She reached out to the School of Music and Stephen Duncan, UNCG’s piano technician, went into the surplus warehouse and was able to install an upright piano in Moran Commons’ hallway.

UNCG’s North Spencer and Grogan Resident Halls and the Sullivan Science Building also have pianos, but this one sits in one of UNCG’s most heavily trafficked areas – a short walk from the Esports Arena, the mail room, and various food courts. Students will sit to listen while they work on schoolwork or chat with friends after class. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I’ll meet you at the piano.’” says Good.

A Soundtrack to Relax, Study, or Hang Out 

Justin Logan studies information sciences and grew up playing piano for his church. “Music is a place where I can retreat and just get some time to self-reflect and relax,” he says.

UNCG student Justin Logan plays for students in Moran Commons.
Justin Logan plays for an audience

Logan calls the piano a nice touch to a space used for studying as well as socializing. “Music takes you to another place. So, regardless of how students are feeling throughout the day – they could be feeling down, or they could be feeling pretty happy – music brings excitement and joy to their lives.”

Phoenyx Raiola, a first-year student majoring in biology with a human biology concentration, sees it as a great place to practice while hanging out with others.

“I get so many kinds of reactions from people – standing in the corner to watch or coming up to me and saying that I sound great, or people coming up and dancing,” says Raiola.

UNCG student Madelyn Good stands by the community piano in Moran Commons.
Madelyn Good

Because Moran’s foot traffic ebbs and flows throughout the day, a student who is nervous about playing in public may stop by when it’s not so busy. One full semester since its installation, the piano has already fulfilled Good’s intention to make music more accessible to the entire UNCG community.

“Whether you’re a student, a music major, an avid player, a listener, or just a passerby, I think the piano has captivated many,” says Good, “And has brought many people together through the shared enjoyment of music.”

“To get together over something beautiful, something artfully done, is just amazing to see,” says Raiola. “I like to see students just relax and have a good time.”

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona and David Lee Row, University Communications
Video by David Lee Row, University Communications

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