National free piano project comes to Butler County

Published 4:07 pm Friday, December 8, 2023

Boston-based concert pianist Miki Sawada will travel across Alabama with her own piano from Dec. 1 through Dec. 14 as part of the “Gather Hear Tour.” Sawada will perform nine free public concerts in seven towns and cities across the state, and also visit local public schools and Alabama prisons. 

One of the selected venues is Butler County’s very own Georgiana Opry House on Dec. 14 at 7:00 p.m.

Through the “Gather Hear Tour”, Sawada is on a mission to perform in all 50 states, inspiring human connection across political and socio economic divides. The project was launched in 2017 in Alaska, and has since reached thousands in West Virginia, Utah, Massachusetts and Louisiana. 

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Owner of the Georgiana Opry House Tracy Eason said she is very excited for Sawada’s visit. 

“We are very excited that she chose us as one of her locations to perform,” Eason said. “She’s wanting to help us with our music lesson program that we’re trying to get off the ground. She wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen, but because we don’t have something like that we’re going to go to Country Place Assisted Living facility and she’s going to perform for them. We’d also like to do a presentation at the local schools while she’s here.”

Sawada is an international concert pianist based in Boston, MA, who has performed in North America, Europe, and Asia at venues such as Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Roulette Brooklyn and Helsinki Music Centre. Sawada holds degrees from Yale School of Music, Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University.

Sawada said the idea of Gather Hear came to her a week after the 2016 presidential election, when she – a Japanese native who immigrated to America – despaired over the reality of a divided country. 

She said looked for ways to use classical music to understand the country better through concerts that are personal, intimate and welcoming to all. By taking classical music outside of formal concert halls and into “everyday” spaces, presenting it in a friendly and inclusive manner, Sawada said she aims to break down typical barriers of entry to classical music and create occasions for people to experience a shared humanity. 

Gather Hear’s success relies on partnerships with local organizations. In Alabama, Sawada collaborates with arts or social service organizations who are passionate about making positive change in their local communities. Gather Hear Alabama’s presenting partner is InToto Creative Arts Forum in Birmingham, who provides art classes in homeless shelters around the city. Other partners include Alabama Prison Arts & Education Program and Coleman Center for the Arts.

Sawada says she is very excited for the Gather Hear Tour in Alabama.

“It has been such a joy to plan this tour and work with all of these Alabama organizations who are doing incredible and inspiring work, often fighting odds against them,” Sawada said. “I can’t wait to be in Alabama sharing my music, getting to know everyone and hopefully contributing to local culture in a meaningful way.” 

Sawada’s concert program features African American composers alongside Europeans, interspersed with poetry readings that reflect Alabama. To see Sawada’s full biography and her tour schedule visit