PICTURED: The piano that mysteriously showed up on Unitarian Universalist Church property this summer. Photo courtesy Joe Osborne

Ventura’s Unitarian Universalist Church has been blessed with the gift of music. A mysterious piano appeared in the church parking lot earlier this summer — in the middle of the night. No one knows for sure where the piano came from, but a message written on the back of the instrument does give a hint as to the motivation behind the gift: “This piano was donated to and for the people of Ventura. It is open to play for us all. Please treat it with respect and most of all enjoy!”

Joe Osborne, a member of the church’s publicity team, describes the peculiar arrival of the instrument. 

“About a month ago we were notified by security that someone was playing a piano outside our church at 3 a.m.,” explains Osborne. “By the time anyone got there no one was there. Just the piano with a message scrawled across the back of it . . . Although the piano was left for us, the message indicates it’s a gift to Ventura. Although there are theories about who gave it to us, we really don’t know.”

Though its origins remain a mystery, its significance does not. The church plans to celebrate this symbolic gesture by hosting an outdoor open mic event. “Basically, it’s a signup like most open mics and usually Sue and Kent Brinkmeyer manage the event as well as perform in it. There was a lot of discussion about what to do with it, and we’re a church with a very active open mic series. So, we decided to make it an event and combine our first in-person open mic since the pandemic started with this piano.”

And to continue this celebration of musical unity, Osborne explains that the church plans to honor the gift giver’s message by keeping the piano outside through the summer season as long as it is safe to do so. “The inspiration for keeping the piano outside this summer is that it’s not our piano. A person made this gift to the city of Ventura, and we want to respect that idea, and let others share in the gift until the seasons change and outdoor life becomes less healthy for a piano.”

The church’s mission is to “reach out to create a more just and loving community, in harmony with nature,” so it is only fitting that a symbol of music would signify their return to hosting these events. As the past year has demonstrated, the collective spirit of Ventura County is vibrant and resilient. Look no further than the community’s shared love of music for proof. Unitarian Universalist Church aims to foster this spiritual growth. 

“Our music program is a key element for our congregation,” explains Osborne. “It dovetails and supports very nicely with our worship service . . . The open mic is an extension of that as it allows our members a chance to communicate through this wonderful medium of music. It also helps to build inclusion and community among our members and the community at large.”

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura’s open mic will take place on Saturday, July 17, at 5 p.m. in the church parking lot at 5654 Ralston St., Ventura. Services (currently presented via Zoom) are Sundays at 10 a.m. For more information, call 805-644-3898 or visit unitarianuniversalistventura.org