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. But Beau Brant continues to be on the piano, taking part in for stragglers.
Finally, a waitress provides him the “wrap-it-up” signal. Probably a good suggestion, since he has a flight to catch the following day, and he can’t be late.
He’s the captain.
Perhaps there are different piano-playing airline pilots, however what number of have reduce seven albums, carried out for a U.S. president and had an authentic 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 appears to be like for a spot to play, only for the enjoyable of it.
An everyday performer now at lots 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 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 highway for his crew and strangers. And he’s fallen in love with the Bar at Palm Court, a hovering Art Deco venue within 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 includes 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.
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 resort, 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 blissful hour.
You used to play professionally?
I grew up in Evergreen, simply exterior Denver, and performed eating places there after I was 12. Then accommodations, weddings, birthdays — typically 4 or 5 nights every week. I wouldn’t be the place I'm in the present day with out music: Flight coaching is dear.
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. But within the U.S., many accommodations have retired their pianos, and so they’re tougher and tougher to seek out.
Your layover units can final for hours — no cost?
Sometimes 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 positively not concerning the cash.
What’s your drink of selection whereas taking part in?
I get pleasure from a pleasant pink 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.
United is aware of about your double life, proper?
They used me in a social media industrial 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 beneath very strict procedures, however we are able to put our personal contact on issues — “finesse” the plane. With music, you may 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 may 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, certainly one of my songs was in a video presentation for a fund-raiser sponsored by Oprah, in Chicago, for her “Angel Network.”
What’s flying been like because the pandemic?
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 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 beloved to play a type of lounges.
Beau Brant’s music may be discovered on beaubrant.com.
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