The Unassembled #13945

Matted, canvas, & super high gloss prints available. Questions?


The Story

Here is a large unused high school auditorium with a high sky-blue ceiling, an empty field of seats, and one lone baby grand piano in residence waiting until two friendly hands come to play once again. Today nearly abandoned, the Cooper School in Shenandoah PA was built in 1917 with the grand piano being bought brand new for it the same year. It hasn’t moved from the auditorium since and represents a different way of thinking about the phrase captive audience.

This piano is in the same worn and dusty condition as the room it lives in, very rough and unready. Today, it’s unplayable with a few missing keys and an old-age case of wobbly wooden legs. It spends eternity with a large array of some very uncomfortable old-fashioned plywood seats. Somehow, you can just feel their hard-arsed karma penetrate the air. Sitting in one for half an hour was usually plenty enough if you’ve ever had the experience.

This shot was taken from the edge of the auditorium stage, that wilting view every green high school actor has seen in their stage debut. Welcome to Fiddler On The Roof, sonny.

The amount of color in the Cooper School auditorium was very striking and pleasantly pastel-like, not often seen in large old buildings this way. The school isn’t entirely abandoned, it has a single volunteer caretaker and electrical service. The hall colors were showing in the lights. In photography, electric lights always create a color cast that adds to the coloring shown here in the yellow. However, the lighting in the auditorium itself was natural window light from a window wall to the left, out of frame.

After I spun it around 180 on those very wobbly wheels and legs, here’s what this baby grand piano looks like from the front, the keyboard side, in Beethoven’s Unkownth #13943. Playing this piano surely won’t go well if your finger falls into the hole of the missing key. I didn’t try any chords on this instrument while I was there, but it’s probably out of tune. For good.

This eastern Pennsylvania school shares the declining fortunes of the anthracite coal country town where it lies. Cooper School closed in 1980, never to be used in education again. However, someone is trying to re-purpose the place as a general community center and it’s been slow going in an economically depressed area. But, at least it isn’t a hollowed-out and ransacked shell covered in graffiti, thanks to some people who care to try.

Location: Cooper School, Shenandoah, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

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