How one Denver based organization aims to preserve an industry
It’s no secret that Live Music was the first industry to take a hit during the COVID shutdowns, and we’ll likely be the last to return to “normal” once it’s over. While many of us are missing going to outdoor concerts and festivals, one aspect of the Music/Entertainment industry that is often overlooked is the piano bar. For those who aren’t in the know, the piano bar is a place where one can go to sit around a piano and tip someone to play your favorite songs (sing-alongs are strongly encouraged!). If you ever get the chance go check out a Dueling Pianos show, where two or more players will play off of each other while taking requests.
As soon as the COVID shutdowns came around, local Denver piano player Jami McNeill and techie Ryan Bennett decided to take the show online, providing a way for patrons to continue to see their favorite players and send requests via social media, PayPal, and Venmo. After a few test runs, Quarantine Keys was born and began recruiting players from all across the country. After solving the problem of having players stream through the Quarantine Keys Facebook and YouTube accounts from their individual locations, they were free to begin setting a weekly schedule (similar to television programming) and have players promote their all-request shows.
The group of players quickly swelled to have about a dozen regular players doing their own unique shows once or twice a week. This roster includes Jon Li, Jen Lane, Kenny Friedman, Guitaro 5000 (Reggie Guillaume), and of course Jami McNeill. Players do their own versions of request shows sporting some serious talent. Jon Li and Jami McNeill learn songs on the fly for their audience regularly, while Kenny Friedman recently played Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety for his Prog Rock request show. Guitaro 5000 has a Hip-Hop request show that incorporates the busking style with excellent rhythmic guitar work and home-made percussion attached to his guitar.
Quarantine Keys has been branching out recently and has hosted one-off Locals Only nights on Saturdays. Artists that have streamed for this include Future Joy, Chuck Shadow, The Low Road, Dennis Veazy and Elie Herzog (Chompers), Sarah Mount (Sarah Mount and the Rushmores, Shuj Roswell, The Pamlico Sound) and many more. Saturday evenings are also host to the Sober Speakeasy, a Keys and Bass jazz combo made up of Ross Sandlin and Wil Snyder. This programming was made to ensure that musicians in the Denver community have the opportunity to play for an audience that wouldn’t be able to see them otherwise.
As an organization Quarantine Keys has made sure that players are getting donations while they play. Part of the service they provide is managing these donations as well as the requests that come in, and coordinating with players remotely during their show. “This lets the players focus on their show, and they really only have to watch the chat on their stream to see requests and engage with their audience while we do the rest” says player and Co-Founder Jami McNeill, “We’ve gathered an audience that passed 2,000 people and raised about $30,000 for our players since the shutdowns in March”. The group has also been moving towards 501C3 Non-Profit status “Which means we’d be able to make sure the donations that players receive is all tax-exempt, and people who make donations can write that amount off” says McNeill.
With COVID showing no sign of letting large scale events happen anytime soon the folks running (and playing for) Quarantine Keys have been ecstatic to be able to provide this service for the people who have been missing their local piano bar. Be sure to patronize your local piano bars once they reopen (with social distancing guidelines), and if you’re in Denver be sure to patronize Charlie Brown’s (recently reopened, with distancing, and hosting piano players).
Players interested in streaming on Quarantine Keys can reach them at