Passing the Time With a Piano-Playing Pilot

It’s after midnight at the Palm Court in Cincinnati and employees is attempting to shut. Lights are dimmed as the final of the martini glasses and beer bottles are scooped up. But Beau Brant remains to be at the piano, taking part in for stragglers.

Finally, a waitress offers him the “wrap-it-up” signal. Probably a good concept, since he has a flight to catch the subsequent day, and he can’t be late.

He’s the captain.

Perhaps 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 Airlines for 17 years, Mr. Brant considers flying job primary. But with each layover, he seems for a place to play, only for the enjoyable of it.

An everyday performer now at lots of his layover lodges, Mr. Brant flies home routes from his homebase in Denver to the likes of Madison, Wis.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Jackson Hole, Wyo.

He nonetheless has the occasional gig again residence — his home piano is a Yamaha Grand — however will get most enthusiastic about taking part in on the street for his crew and strangers. And he’s fallen in love with the Bar at Palm Court, a hovering Art Deco venue in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza: “The piano area reminds me of the Titanic’s ‘grand staircase.’ ”

His units are a rambling mixture of jazz, blues, classical and present tunes. His model options a flashy proper hand and loads of bounce however no sheet music. And he loves speaking about his two passions.

The following are excerpts from conversations with Mr. Brant, edited for readability.

It began on a long-haul in 2005, New York to Frankfurt. We arrived early at the lodge, the rooms weren’t prepared, and there was this lovely piano in the foyer. I began taking part in for the crew and wound up taking part in blissful hour.

I grew up in Evergreen, simply exterior Denver, and performed eating places there after I was 12. Then lodges, weddings, birthdays — generally 4 or 5 nights a week. I wouldn’t be the place I’m right this moment with out music: Flight coaching is pricey.

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. But in the U.S., many lodges have retired their pianos, and so they’re more durable and more durable to seek out.

Sometimes I get food 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 positively not about the cash.

I take pleasure in a good 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. At the Plaza, it was soda water with lime.

They used me in a social media business taking part in our theme tune, “Rhapsody in Blue.” I play that at just about each efficiency.

There’s an artwork to music and an artwork to flying. Pilots must function beneath very strict procedures, however we are able to 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 the automation. Hand-flying may be a lot smoother — small, mild actions, like with music items.

I carried out for President Ford in 1992 in Vail, Colo. In 1999, certainly one of my songs was in a video presentation for a fund-raiser sponsored by Oprah, in Chicago, for her “Angel Network.”

There’s nonetheless the masks, however we’re lastly getting again to regular, bringing again meals and drinks. I bear in mind a flight final yr after we had 5 crew and 9 passengers.

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 may be discovered on beaubrant.com.


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