After 17 years of playing the piano in the food court at Mayfair Mall, Wauwatosa resident Paul Bahr got an email April 25 informing him that the next day would be his last playing in the mall — possibly forever, or possibly just for a while.
Mayfair's marketing manager, Brenda Vento, did not return calls for comment about why the mall stopped the program. But mall secretary Kim Burr said the mall's corporate office, General Growth Properties, is "exploring other options" for entertainment and paused the program.
In an emailed statement, Vento said, "As always, Mayfair is committed to the comfort and enjoyment of our customers. We are sorry if these changes disappoint some of our patrons."
Bahr is hoping the program returns.
"I hope they re-eavluate and bring it back because I think it's great for the mall, and the comunity area," he said. "It adds a special touch. I'd get up there on a Saturday at lunch and it would be half full, and you'd start playing and within 20 minutes there would be people all over the place."
Bahr, a former Milwaukee Lutheran High School principal, said he would look forward to spending his Saturday afternoons at the mall, making people smile as he played pieces by ear.
"It was kind of relaxing for me because being a high school principal, there was enough stress on the job," Bahr said. "It just became something I love doing."
Over the years, Bahr said, he garnered some regular fans and dancers — especially in the under-5 crowd. Sometimes he would lift kids onto the piano bench, pick up their pinkies and show them "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
"I always tried to play things recognizable, things that would put a smile on people's faces," Bahr said. "It's just the happiness and the joy that you see on people's faces, that's the fun of doing it."
With the money he earned playing the piano, Bahr funded family vacations and donated to Milwaukee Lutheran High School and Brookfield Lutheran Church. He also helped his kids pay tuition at Concordia University.
"The last day I was playing piano and looking at the escalator, and up comes a sign that said, 'Thank you so much,'" Bahr said. "My kids made a sign that said, 'Thanks for giving up your Saturdays to make other people happy.'"
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