It’s after midnight on the Palm Court in Cincinnati and employees is attempting to shut. Lights are dimmed because the final of the martini glasses and beer bottles are scooped up. However Beau Brant continues to be on the piano, taking part in for stragglers.
Lastly, a waitress offers him the “wrap-it-up” signal. In all probability a good suggestion, since he has a flight to catch the following day, and he can’t be late.
He’s the captain.
Maybe there are different piano-playing airline pilots, however what number of have minimize seven albums, carried out for a U.S. president and had an unique tune utilized by Oprah Winfrey?
Mr. Brant, 41, has been taking part in — and flying — most of his life. He began on the piano at age 3 and was flying by 12. A pilot with United Airways for 17 years, Mr. Brant considers flying job primary. However with each layover, he seems to be for a spot to play, only for the enjoyable of it.
A daily performer now at a lot of his layover accommodations, Mr. Brant flies home routes from his homebase in Denver to the likes of Madison, Wis.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Jackson Gap, Wyo.
He nonetheless has the occasional gig again dwelling — his home piano is a Yamaha Grand — however will get most enthusiastic about taking part in on the highway for his crew and strangers. And he’s fallen in love with the Bar at Palm Court docket, a hovering Artwork Deco venue within the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza: “The piano space jogs my memory of the Titanic’s ‘grand staircase.’ ”
His units are a rambling mixture of jazz, blues, classical and present tunes. His type contains a flashy proper hand and loads of bounce however no sheet music. And he loves speaking about his two passions.
The next are excerpts from conversations with Mr. Brant, edited for readability.
How did this fly-and-play routine come about?
It began on a long-haul in 2005, New York to Frankfurt. We arrived early on the lodge, the rooms weren’t prepared, and there was this stunning piano within the foyer. I began taking part in for the crew and wound up taking part in pleased hour.
You used to play professionally?
I grew up in Evergreen, simply exterior Denver, and performed eating places there once I was 12. Then accommodations, weddings, birthdays — generally 4 or 5 nights every week. I wouldn’t be the place I’m right now with out music: Flight coaching is pricey.
What are a few of the most unique locations you’ve performed?
Paris, Zurich, Lisbon, Sydney, Shanghai. I flew worldwide for a lot of my profession. In 2019, I upgraded to captain on the Airbus 320 and now fly North American routes. However within the U.S., many accommodations have retired their pianos, they usually’re tougher and tougher to search out.
Your layover units can final for hours — no cost?
Generally I get foods and drinks, however that’s already lined by the airline. The tip jar can get anyplace from $20 to $200, however I exploit that to deal with the crew to one thing. It’s undoubtedly not concerning the cash.
What’s your drink of alternative whereas taking part in?
I get pleasure from a pleasant crimson wine, however there’s the 12-hour rule [the F.A.A. prohibits pilots from consuming alcohol 12 hours before work], and I’m very respectful of that. On the Plaza, it was soda water with lime.
United is aware of about your double life, proper?
They used me in a social media commercial taking part in our theme tune, “Rhapsody in Blue.” I play that at just about each efficiency.
Are there similarities between flying and taking part in?
There’s an artwork to music and an artwork to flying. Pilots need to function underneath very strict procedures, however we will put our personal contact on issues — “finesse” the plane. With music, you’ll be able to play a composition precisely prefer it’s written, however I prefer to take it and add my twist. I encourage my first officers to hand-fly — flip off all of the automation. Hand-flying will be a lot smoother — small, mild actions, like with music items.
So, the president and Oprah Winfrey — how did these occur?
I carried out for President Ford in 1992 in Vail, Colo. In 1999, one among my songs was in a video presentation for a fund-raiser sponsored by Oprah, in Chicago, for her “Angel Community.”
What’s flying been like for the reason that pandemic?
There’s nonetheless the masks, however we’re lastly getting again to regular, bringing again meals and drinks. I keep in mind a flight final 12 months once we had 5 crew and 9 passengers.
What can be your dream gig?
I’d wish to return in time, to these Pan Am 747s that had a lounge with a piano. On the long-hauls, pilots get a break. I might have cherished to play a kind of lounges.
Beau Brant’s music will be discovered on beaubrant.com.
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