Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s piano skills are in the spotlight after a video of him performing alongside Ben Folds in 2015 began circulating on social media. Buttigieg Pete played “Steven’s Last Night in Town” during Folds’ 2015 concert in South Bend, surprising the band with his aptitude for the instrument.
The attention on that show manifested anew after Folds tweeted on April 1 that Buttigieg is a “fine piano player!” Mayor Pete responded the next day by tweeting, “That was a good day.”
That performance was far from the first for Buttigieg. He had been playing since he was a small child and played “Rhapsody in Blue” with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in 2013.
Here’s what you need to know.
Folds Said He Was Apprehensive When Mayor Pete Buttigieg Asked to Participate in the Show But Was Surprised When Buttigieg Picked Up the Song Quickly
Pete Buttigieg and Ben Folds have performed together only once, but the experience left a lasting impression on the musician. He told Esquire that the mayor asked if he could join them on-stage and play the piano during the 2015 concert in South Bend.
Folds said that he was apprehensive about the request. He told the magazine that he thought the sound technician would need to turn the volume down on the piano. But when they rehearsed the song, Folds said Buttigieg picked up “Steven’s Last Night in Town” quickly.
In the video posted to YouTube by Manda Harris, you can hear cheers for “Mayor Pete” throughout the song. The camera zoomed in on a screen showing Buttigieg from a different angle. He was wearing a shirt that read “I❤️SB” and appeared very focused while jamming along. At the end of the song, Buttigieg took a bow and shook Folds’ hand. That exit impressed Folds, who told Esquire, “He didn’t take the moment to grab the mic and talk or linger on stage. Total class.”
On Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, Folds added, “I think if he manages to bring people together the way I saw from the stage in South Bend, he’s going to bring a great gift to the national conversation and its tone.”
Buttigieg Performed With the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in 2013
Mayor Pete Buttigieg made his debut as a concert pianist when he played with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in February of 2013, about a year after he was elected as mayor.
Buttigieg performed “Rhapsody in Blue” in front of an estimated crowd of about 1,850 people at the Morris Performing Arts Center.
The South Bend Tribune had a positive review of Buttigieg’s performance. The author wrote that Buttigieg “acquitted himself well as he executed the piece’s difficult fast passages with technical precision, although technique sometimes took precedence over expressiveness.”
Pete Buttigieg Has Been Playing Piano Since He Was a Child & Also Loves to Play the Guitar, But Says He Has No Singing Ability
Mayor Pete Buttigieg began taking piano lessons as a young child and continued all the way until he was 18. He explained his musical background to a group of elementary school students in 2014. The event was put on by a non-profit organization called “We the Kids.”
A little girl named Joanna asked Buttigieg what sort of music he liked and whether he enjoyed singing. The exchange begins at the 3:05 mark, which is embedded above.
Buttigieg responded that he loves “all kinds of music.” He explained that he stopped playing the piano when he was 18, but regretted that he had stopped practicing. Buttigieg started playing again in his 20s and told the kids that he has a piano in his house. “Sometimes after a long day at work… I like to sit down at the piano and play something and it helps me clear my mind a little bit and relaxes me too.”
Buttigieg added that he also enjoys playing the guitar, even though he’s not as good with the guitar as he is on the piano. But as for singing– that’s not in his wheelhouse! Buttigieg told the kids that he “can’t quite seem to hold a tune” and therefore he tries “not to inflict that on other people.”