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    MIT students bring back tradition of tossing piano off building

    A baby grand piano was the sacrificial instrument in 2008.
    Evan Richman/Globe Staff/File
    A baby grand piano was the sacrificial instrument in 2008.

    The tradition of tossing a piano from the top of a building on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus took a gap year.

    But thanks to students at the school’s Baker House, a dormitory on Memorial Drive, hundreds are once again expected to gather Thursday to watch as one of the musical instruments is thrown from the sixth story, then smashes to the ground in a heap of wood sprinkled with black-and-white keys.

    For many students at the school, the “Piano Drop,” which got its start more than 40 years ago, is music to their ears.


    It’s a celebration that not only rallies the community together to participate in something unusually destructive — and perhaps to blow off steam — but also marks the last day they can officially “drop” a spring semester class from their busy course schedules.

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    According to the MIT Tech, the student newspaper, the tradition of rolling non-working pianos from a ramp on the rooftop has occurred off and on since its inception in 1972. For a while, it occurred uninterrupted, and became a highly-anticipated annual affair.

    Morgan Matranga and Makenzie Patarino, both sophomores and current co-presidents of Baker House, said due to logistical issues it didn’t come together last year, however, and that cycle was broken.

    They wanted to make sure the school wasn’t deprived of yet another year of watching a piano crash to earth. So, with the help of many others, they began to organize the affair in January.

    MIT Museum
    The first MIT piano drop in 1972.

    “The biggest thing was getting other people on board,” said Patarino. “Because it’s not something you can plan with just two people.”


    Matranga added, “We thought it was something that would be really cool to bring back. ... There’s something very lighthearted and spur-of-the-moment about throwing a piano off the roof.”

    After months of plotting and finally picking the right piano, students will hurl the instrument from the building at around 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

    The event is open to the public, but attendees will be required to stand way back, to avoid any potential piano shrapnel. The drop, according to a 2012 Globe article about the 40th anniversary of the event, happens above an enclosed section of lawn outside Baker House.

    Once it’s smashed, people typically swarm the piano’s remains like scavengers, and pluck small bits and pieces from the pile to take home with them as keepsakes.

    Patarino said while it’s certainly fun to watch a piano drop from the sky, students wanted to add a charitable element to this year’s event, giving it a sense of purpose.


    Baker House residents plan to collect donations and sell T-shirts to spectators Thursday, and give the proceeds to The Stepping Stone Foundation, which implements programs that prepare underserved schoolchildren for educational opportunties, according to the organization’s website.

    “We’re looking forward to working with them, and raising money,” Patarino said.

    Piano Drop, 2015:

    Piano Drop, 2012:

    Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.