Center for the Arts Stories: Jonathan Kalb ’81

Jonathan Kalb '81 at Machu Picchu. Photo by his wife Julie Heffernan.
Jonathan Kalb ’81 at Machu Picchu. Photo by his wife Julie Heffernan.

My story is about an annual ritual of storing a god-awfully heavy upright piano that I stubbornly insisted on keeping with me all four years at Wesleyan. I’m sure a psychiatrist, if I ever asked one, would have a lot to say about why I lugged this absurd, quarter-ton, beaten-up, wooden instrument around during the most unsettled and itinerant time of life, hauling it from The Gingerbread House, to In-Town, to off-campus rentals on Washington and Pine Streets. More than three decades on, I can barely remember a time so innocent that moving seemed novel and fun. In any case, because Wesleyan housing had to be vacated over the summers, I had to find a place for my behemoth to stay every year from May until September. Full of freshman chutzpah in the spring in 1978, I walked into the Music Department, where I’d never taken a class, and asked a professor I didn’t know (I think it was Jon Barlow) if by chance I might leave my piano in a CFA practice room. He graciously answered: “Sure, if you can get it here.”

Thus began my yearly rite of bribing four or five friends with a case of beer to help push the damn thing across multiple streets and up and down long paths and sidewalks, on its rickety castors, to and from its summer sanctuary in the CFA. The asphalt pathways by the Music Department never looked the same after these operations and neither did my friends. The piano, however, was in great shape every fall (except for the castors) and I could play it in my room any time of the day or night, which is what mattered to me. Graduation inevitably forced me to focus on the merits of lightening up, and when a friend who had helped push (Joel Kreisberg) offered to buy the beast for fifty bucks, I reluctantly agreed. I saw it a few years later at his country house, nicked, faded, hulking, defiant—a proud old rusty ship just daring us to take it out on one more voyage.