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Gloria Roberts

Bon Voyage & Welcome Home with Gloria Roberts. Syracuse’s very own airport pianist wishes you safe adventures through music.

If you’ve been to the airport, you may have seen that beautiful piano near the central escalator that leads to your gate, or as you arrive in our fair city.  If you’re lucky enough for the right timing, you’ve had a chance to catch that nice lady playing the piano as you scurry to your destination – offering a soundtrack to your travel experience in Syracuse. As we all know, flying can at times make anyone weary in the adventure of it all. 

Well, Gloria Roberts is here to ease your anxiety or heighten your excitement – in any case improve and bring delight to your travel experience.

She has spent much of her life playing piano. And, at the age of 90 years, she’s still going strong. I, personally, become inspired whenever I gain the privilege to meet such a person, so I am beside myself to be side-by-side with Gloria on the piano bench, so-to-speak, for this interview.

Chuck Schiele: Gloria, I am delighted with this privilege of meeting you in this way. Thank you for sharing your story with us. When did you start playing music? How did you become interested in piano? Please share with us a brief history of your music path.

Gloria Roberts: I have been playing the piano and organ. Since I was a child, I was never able to really read music, but I could play anything I heard by ear. I like playing the piano, but my preference is really the organ. I play for fun and I play because I like making people smile. 

CS: What were some of your favorite and most notable moments in your career?

GR: I don’t know if I’ve had much of a career, but at family functions and church functions, I’ve always enjoyed entertaining friends and family with the gift that God gave me.

CS: Who are your favorite artists?

GR: People ask me to play popular music, but I really am more a fan of all songs. I love to play hymns, and I like to play patriotic songs also.

CS: You’ve got a gig at the Syracuse Airport. When they told me about you, I smiled, excited to find out “who” does this. How did playing at the airport come about?

GR: My son had an idea that it would be fun to have an organ and a piano at the airport, and he talked to Bob Carbone at the Piano and Organ Center about volunteering a beautiful piano and an amazing organ for the community to be able to play.

CS: Do you play elsewhere, currently?

GR: I play at home almost every day, but the highlight of my day is going to the airport to entertain people and to make them smile. When people are traveling, they have some degree of stress, and if I can lighten that load, it makes me happy. The joy inside me is my relationship with Christ and I want to use my gift to bless people. 

CS: Travelers are a whole different kind of audience from what my pals and I are used to. Please share with us what playing for this clientele is like?

GR: I will occasionally meet famous musicians and artists, but being 90 years old some other names are not familiar to me. Everyone has been so gracious, and it’s such a pleasure for me to play.

CS: What are some of the most requested songs you entertain?

GR: I love playing; Take Me Out To The Ball Game, I love playing hymns, and I love to play military music when I see individuals who are serving our country.

CS: Tell us what you think on how music has evolved over your lifetime.

GR: I really don’t know much about the evolution of music. The instrument has an amazing amount of sounds, and every day I learn something new about the amazing organ that I play.

CS: What would be your advice for folks starting out or aspiring to play music?

GR: If you like playing, start playing, keep playing and enjoy every minute of it.

CS: When do you generally play at the airport? Do you know “Old Devil Moon” (so that we can play together?)

GR: The airport is really crowded early in the morning; I am an early bird, so there are days where I’m over at the airport playing at 5, 6 or 7 in the morning and other days where I don’t get over there that early.

CS: Gloria, thank you very much for taking a little time to share your story with us here at Sounds of Syracuse. I look forward to hearing you play.

GR: Playing the organ and making people smile is the highlight of my day. I like to get my work done at home before I go in then I get to do what I enjoy the most, which is making other people smile.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.