It’s a faint sound, just barely audible, upon entering the Memorial Student Center (MSC) at Texas A&M University. The notes bounce off the walls and echo down the corridors. Approaching the Flag Room, it grows louder. Head in and there it is, tucked away in a comfortable corner, flanked by students lounging on couches or sitting at tables, clicking laptops.
Although much has changed since the MSC renovation and expansion, the Flag Room’s grand piano remains. Beloved by many spectators, tolerated by a few nap-takers, the MSC piano exudes a cozy feeling, adding to the MSC’s reputation as the “living room of Texas A&M.”
Throughout the day, brave souls with nimble fingers stop by to play a song or two. The song of the moment could just as easily be a classical sonata or a jazz standard as a Coldplay hit or a Justin Beiber “masterpiece” – it all depends whose fingers grace the keys. But know this: if you’re going to play the piano in the MSC Flag Room, you’d better bring your A-game.
“The piano in the Flag Room isn’t one to practice on,” says one recent Tweet. “Come…prepared. Practice downstairs.” Piano practice rooms in the basement of the MSC can be a good warm-up for a Flag Room performance.
Freshman Taylor Eubanks likes to share her talent with the Flag Room audience. Eubanks, 18, is a member of the Blinn TEAM, a co-enrollment partnership between Texas A&M and Blinn Community College. She hails from McKinney, Texas, and has been playing piano for the past 11 years. She first played the Flag Room piano at the age of 13 while visiting her older brother who was attending Texas A&M.
“I knew that I would not be able to walk by it without sitting down and playing something,” she recalls. “So I sat down and played ‘I Can Only Imagine’ by Mercy Me. I could only imagine that very piano would be my number one source of entertainment when I would attend Texas A&M six years later!”
Eubanks can tap out a classical piece or a modern pop tune and also writes and performs her own music.
The MSC’s Steinway Model B is an especially fine instrument to play, says Eubanks. “I will be a very happy person if I own one like that before I die,” she laughs.
She says the Flag Room piano has an amazing way of bringing people together. “It’s great because of the fellowship it brings,” she says. “Hundreds of people walk by the piano every day, and I have yet to get off the bench before somebody approaches me. I almost always end up having somebody pull up a chair and play with me or sing along with me. It’s been a great way to meet other musicians, or as some call themselves, ‘professional listeners.’”
While he doesn’t characterize himself as a “professional listener” Tim Roorda, 22, from Houston, a graduate student in aerospace engineering, enjoys a good Flag Room performance. “I like having the piano here. When I was a freshman, I took a nap in here and woke up to someone playing a song from ‘Halo’ [the video game]. Sometimes it can be distracting, but on the whole, it contributes to the hominess of the MSC.”
Cullen Roach, Class of 2016, agrees. The 18-year-old petroleum engineering major from Longview, Texas, says as long as it’s good music and not too loud, he’s okay with it. “Hopefully it’s not so soothing that it puts you to sleep,” he says.
The piano is a great form of self-expression, says 18-year-old Kendra Spaw, Class of 2016, an education major from College Station. “I think it gives the area a playful vibe,” says Spaw. “People can express themselves in a different way than anywhere else on campus.”
Eubanks says she’s gotten nothing but positive comments from her Flag Room audience and stops by two to three times a week to play. “It’s the best therapy I’ve found yet for coping with college stress,” she says.
Michael Skutt, 20, from San Antonio, also routinely plays the Flag Room piano and receives positive input from those watching. “I’ve gotten comments that range from a simple thumbs-up to a full-on conversation about music,” says the biomedical sciences major, Class of 2014.
Skutt has been playing classical music for about 15 years, such as Rachmaninoff and Chopin, but also plays jazz standards from the likes of Count Basie and Chick Corea. He stops by the Flag Room to play once or twice a week and says he enjoys the unique atmosphere, “You get to play for a huge amount of students lounging in the Flag Room, and also for students passing by.”
He thinks having the piano open to anyone who wants to play allows for an enhanced MSC experience. “It encourages camaraderie between students who share an interest in music, while allowing students to provide soothing music to the room,” he explains.
Eubanks agrees, saying, “Having a piano in the Flag Room definitely makes for a richer experience for people who visit the MSC,” she says. “From watching peoples’ reactions, I’ve seen bad days turned to good and good days made better. It’s brought so much joy to those who play it and has inspired those who listen.”
Media contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University at (979) 845-5591