The piano is quiet - unobtrusive. The sound travels up the high, glass walls of the library's atrium - all the way up to the second floor. But, if you're deep in study, you could tune it out if you wanted to.
Liz Bannister has been playing piano at the library nearly every Sunday for a little more than 10 years.
Most Sunday patrons comb the stacks and hardly seem to notice the music. But a few sit right on either side of Liz, knitting, paging through art books or simply watching her play.
Liz plays mainly classical music on the library's electronic Yamaha piano. Around her piano bench are her purse, her aluminum cane and her pink winter coat. On the piano sits stacks of sheet music, some of her CDs for sale and a few 3-by-5 index cards. From the cards, Liz reads facts about some of the composers she's playing that day. She talks pretty quietly but people lean in to hear.
Bannister got her love for music when she was a young girl growing up in Kentucky. She taught piano in public and private schools.
Bannister says, "I went back to college when I was 62 years old and I got my degree in music education and I graduated from Oakland University down in Rochester. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I could be a perennial student. I could be one."
She's released three CDs and gives all of the money to the Friends of the Traverse Area District Library. She even donated her collection of 75-hundred pieces of sheet music to the library. Just over 10 years ago, Liz Bannister was visiting the library and noticed a new electronic Yamaha piano that had been donated. She offered to play it for library visitors on a regular basis.
Catherine St. Onge teaches high school English for Benzie County Central Schools. She sits in the atrium at Liz's side and knits baby blankets for friends and fellow teachers while she listens.
St. Onge says, "I have been called Liz's groupie more than once (laughs)."
St. Onge first heard Liz play at the library about a year ago. She was researching a book about the history of Traverse City. St. Onge says that she can almost hear Liz's piano when she reads the manuscript she researched. But she also says the experience is about much more than the music.
St. Onge says, " ... and she seems to greet with an old-time southern graciousness for everyone who comes and that's not something you see too often anymore."
Liz Bannister plays at the Traverse Area District Library nearly every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.