Ask James – How Did Halloweekend Come About?

Halloweekend Logo - old vs newVery few people know that Halloweekend actually began in 2007 as a piano sale.  I was working for a music company in Iowa at the time and, as luck would have it, we were forced to reschedule our Fall event due to a scheduling conflict.  The only available weekend was the weekend before Halloween, which is not a traditional time to talk about piano playing.  As I was setting up for the sale (and struggling to find a marketing plan for the event), I received an iPod player piano system (new technology at the time) and I decided to make it the centerpiece of the entire weekend.   Friday and Saturday night, we hosted “ghostly performances” by “Ludwig Van BOOthoven” (who performed “not quite live” in our recital hall).  The kids were in awe of what looked like a ghost playing the piano.  The concerts were very short, we gave out some free candy and we even hosted a pumpkin decorating contest.  It was a fun weekend, but not a great piano sale.

Halloweekend 2008

Susan McPeters from WQPT Television (Quad Cities, IA and IL) reads spooky stories to Halloweekend families (2008)

Early the following year, one of our piano teacher friends (a member of a program that I would eventually retool and call Partners In Education or PIE) mentioned to me that she would really love to have a fun and informal performance event around a theme.  Christmas was too busy… so we needed another holiday that would make sense.  My mind immediately went back to Halloweekend.

Thus, in 2008, we launched our first Halloweekend piano recital.  It was a simple matter (without all the “SAVE YOURSELVES…a ton of money” puns), but the kids LOVED it.  We even invited a local TV personality to come in and read spooky stories to the kids.  We didn’t have all the flashy lights and our tiny fog machine was too small to make any difference, but Halloweekend 2008 is still one of my favorite memories from Iowa.

The Halloweekend Staff

James Harding, Heather Hamilton and Matthew Presley are searching for missing students at Halloweekend 2012.

In April of 2009, I moved to Louisville and joined the Gist Piano Center family.  My first priority was reaching out to piano teachers and their students as I had done in Iowa.  With some help from the very supportive and enthusiastic folks at Gist, I was able to build what is now our Partners In Education program – the largest piano student and teacher outreach program of its kind in the US.

Over the years, Halloweekend has grown into the largest Halloween-themed piano event in the United States.  This year, we’re expecting over 300 students to participate…if they dare.  Halloweekend has been featured in national magazines, area newspapers and even the local TV news. Everyone who has participated in the spooky fun has gone home with some lasting memories.

Who knows what horrific future awaits us at Halloweekend 2015?!  Only those brave enough to attend will find out…


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