23rd Annual Toy Piano Festival

Sep 5, 2023
12:00 PM–1:00 PM

UC San Diego Library’s 23rd Annual Toy Piano Festival is hosted at two locations this year: 

  • Sunday, August 27 at 2:30 p.m. in the Neil Morgan Auditorium at San Diego Central Library
  • Tuesday, September 5 at noon in the Seuss Room at Geisel Library 

The September 5th date is of interest as John Cage’s birthday: Cage was the composer credited with writing the first “serious” work for toy piano. 

Performers and composers at this year’s festival include: Sarah Amos, Kay Etheridge, Christian Hertzog, Ken Herman, Sue Palmer, Scott Paulson, Samara Rice, Barbara Scheidker, Alex Segal, Bobby Ortiz and Bridgette Hines.

Exciting new works for toy piano and traditional lullabies from many lands will be featured on the program. 

Fun Facts:    

  • UC San Diego’s history with toy pianos dates back to 1966 when composer Robert Erickson, a founder of the university’s music department, wrote a piece for toy pianos and bells that premiered on California’s PBS television stations.
  • The first composer to write a “serious” work for toy piano was John Cage, who visited the UC San Diego campus on several occasions, including a two-week stay as a Regents lecturer in the 1980s. Alumnus Scott Paulson, who was on campus for Cage’s lectures, cites the Cage influence as a major part of the impetus of this festival, of which Paulson is the director.
  • In 1999, a missing service bell at a Geisel Library help desk spawned a long streak of toy piano activity here at UC San Diego. The bell was replaced by a playful tiny keyboard and a sign: “Please play on toy piano for service.” And play they did!        
  • The resultant flurry of toy piano activity led to the establishment of The Toy Piano Collection at Geisel Library. The Toy Piano Collection consists of actual instruments, commissioned scores, and extant literature and recordings. Most of the commissioned scores in the collection are composed by UC San Diego alumni.      
  • In May 2001, the Library of Congress issued a subject heading and call number for toy piano scores because of the commissioning activities at Geisel Library. The collection can be viewed under the call number M 175 T69.

Scott Paulson