MIT students are known for asking big questions that forever change the world of science. Other times, the question they ask is: “Why don’t we drop a piano off the roof?” The Baker House Piano Drop is one of MIT’s longest-running rituals and this year, 46 years after the initial drop, it’s still going strong.
The first piano drop was in 1972, masterminded by Charlie Bruno ‘74. According to a post made to Baker House - The Historical Collection by alumnus Mark Fischler, a participant in the maiden piano drop, the idea was born from a house meeting debate over what to do with a broken piano that had been sitting around Baker House. Someone suggested they destroy it by pushing it out of a window, but this idea was shot down. Student handbook guidelines prohibited throwing objects out of dorm windows. It was then that Bruno announced that the handbook said nothing about throwing things off of dorm roofs. Student handbooks were produced and it was discovered that Bruno was right. The motion was passed and after some planning and prep work, the piano was dropped.
Almost 50 years later, Bruno’s legacy lives on, not only in the tradition he started, but in a new unit of measurement. A “Bruno” measures the volume of the dent left after a piano is dropped six stories. Fischler claims that after the drop, the Baker Hall snack bar offered a special on 1.0 Bruno milkshakes (about a liter).
The Baker House Piano Drop has since been moved to appropriately coincide with Drop Day, the last day to drop classes for the spring semester. On the afternoon of Drop Day, students gather around a grassy clearing by Memorial Drive to watch as the piano falls. The piano is decorated by the Baker House residents and is often filled with candy or confetti, to add to the celebratory nature of the drop. Once it hits the ground, students rush in from the sidelines to grab a few coveted pieces of the demolished instrument.
While pianos are certainly harmed in the making of this event, all pianos used are completely beyond repair and are donated to the residence hall instead of being sent to the junkyard.
Months leading up to the event, the student organizers work together on a safety plan with guidance from the Baker House Manager, DSL's Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Manager, and representatives from faciltiies and grounds. Baker House residents overlooking the drop are informed to keep all windows and blinds shut, a permiter is set up for spectators, and a MIT Police and Cambridge Police are on-site furing the event.
This year, the Piano Drop was accompanied by a local food fair and offered a giant sheet cake commemorating the event, courtesy of Lamarca Bakery. The local eateries who provided complimentary samples included Top Shelf Cookies, This Haiti, Pierce Brothers Coffee, and High Lawn Farm. Piano Drop organizers also made T-shirts, cleverly parodying the Nike slogan “Just Do It” with “Just Drop It”. In recent years, the T-shirts have been sold for a good cause, and this year was no different. All proceeds from the T-shirt sales were donated to a charity selected by Baker House residents.
Written by Isabel Stewart, Video by Stephanie Tran
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