isn’t every day that you get the chance to turn the tables and interview your
own boss. At Mundi Project, my time goes
toward planning events, fulfilling Piano Bank applications, and coordinating
Ambassadors, musicians, and Mundi Live events.
So with the opportunity to delve into our origin story, and a much
needed coffee break, I snuck in an interview with Mundi’s Executive Director,
Hana Janatova and discussed a bit of the how and why Mundi was founded and what
she has learned looking back on the first 10 years.
MICHELLE: So Mundi Project, you guys are the “piano
people” right? I hear that all the time
when I tell people I work for MP. What
do you usually say to that question?
HANA: Well, piano is the core and heart of our
organization. As a pianist and teacher, the
idea to create an organization that would create access to pianos and music
opportunities for youth and communities seemed a natural fit.
MICHELLE: So what was your inspiration to focus on
piano or was it music in general? And
further, to create an organization?
HANA: As a first generation immigrant,
our family came to this country with PhD’s and only $50 to their name, but they
never made my brother and I feel like we did without. Music, art, and nature
were all important aspects in our upbringing – it was important to know how to
play an instrument, to attend live performances in all disciplines, to absorb
One of the possessions that we moved to this country
was the family piano. Right before I
founded the Mundi Project with 2 fellow adult students and a couple of friends,
my mother asked me if I knew of somebody in need of a piano. My neighbor’s daughter expressed the desire to
learn, and so my mom gave her the piano and I taught her lessons until they
Starting Mundi Project stemmed from that idea, that there
are individuals who do not have the financial means to own a piano or have
access to art. Plenty of pianos sit as a piece of furniture-holding family
pictures and the typical houseplant. As technological marvels, pianos should be
used for the betterment of communities and the next generation.
MICHELLE: What about the inspiration behind Mundi’s
multi-disciplinary youth performances?
HANA: Some of my fondest memories growing up were
participating in Children’s Dance Theatre’s multidisciplinary summer camps and
annual concerts. You would not only
dance, but create art projects and work with music. I liked that integrated
We incorporated that approach at Mundi Project
when we produced our first multi-disciplinary concert in 2007, “Harmonices
Mundi”. The theme explored Keppler’s
solids, scales, and Ptolomey’s philosophy, and the inaugural concert included
piano performance, original poetry, modern dance, and visual art created by
Mundi has continued to create multidisciplinary projects
that support arts-integration ever since. One of my favorites, AIR (2012), explored air pollution, sustainable energy, soundwaves,
and light refraction with partners Breathe Utah, Repertory Dance Theatre, and
the U of U Arts Bridge and Physics Department. Youth created pinwheels and
giant air-socks out of recycled materials, while learning about 2.5pm
particles, soundwaves, and light refraction.
It was the first project where we utilized PNOScan, fiber optic
technology that triggered multimedia events during performances held at Utah
Cultural Celebration Center, Backman Elementary, and Glendale Middle School.
MICHELLE: So a
lot of these projects are done with other organizations, how did you form these
relationships and go about creating these projects?
HANA: Being a member of the arts community and
having awareness of creative work being produced. Basically, Mundi develops
thematic projects and explores collaborations that will bring greater arts
access with limited resources. This
season we are working a lot with the Visual Art Institute on our new IMPULSE
series, which began while brainstorming together on how to combine music and
visual arts experiences.
MICHELLE: So it’s the 10-year anniversary for Mundi. Over the past 10 years what have been some of
your favorite moments?
- Piano Bank’s first piano placement and seeing
the picture of recipient standing in front of her new piano.
- Our first “Imagine a Piano…” Monster Concert,
which involved every single piano program in Salt Lake. 10 Steinway and Fazioli pianos set the stage
for a one-hour performance involving 80 young pianists, including special guest
artist Jon Schmidt.
- First public piano placement in 2009, a Baby
Grand for the Sorenson Unity Center. Developing a partnership with a city
facility was really important, as it allows our programming to be free to the
participant. This supports our vision of creating open access, and partnerships
with Sorenson Unity, Utah Cultural Celebration Center, and the Salt Lake City
Public Library have been an extremely key component.
- Witnessing the first group of Riley Elementary
students walking to a Harmony Hub piano class located at the Sorenson Unity
MICHELLE: Last but not least, what is the biggest thing
you have learned, as well as the biggest thing you think people are surprised
to learn from Mundi?
HANA: The amount of pianos we have placed is often
surprising to people (we have now placed over 150 throughout Utah), also that
even though piano is our core we embrace a variety of musical genres in our
mission to support arts access. As for
learning experience, my biggest takeaway has been that it really takes a whole community
to support children and to support the arts.
Michelle Ludema is the
Program Coordinator for Mundi Project and oversees their Mundi Live, Piano Bank,
Harmony Hub, and Ambassador programs.
Originally from Layton (pronounced Lay’un) Utah, Michelle holds a
Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Community Arts from the University of
Oregon. She believes in connecting
communities through the arts, and plays a mean early-intermediate rendition of
To learn more about
Mundi’s programs and upcoming events, visit www.mundiproject.org.