To find First Officer Kwabena Amponsah between flights, you just need to follow the music.
In his full pilot uniform, Amponsah, better known as “Nana,” tracks down pianos in airport terminals to play tunes for rushing passersby, a way to relax between flights while bringing a little harmony to the busy airport environment.
“It bridges the gap between myself and my passengers,” said Nana, who joined Endeavor Air in
June 2021. “People come up to me and ask, ‘What flight are you on, I want to be on your flight!’ [and] I say, ‘You know I can’t bring the piano onto the plane, right?’” laughed Nana.
Playing most music by ear, Nana’s tunes vary from jazz and hymns to pop music and holiday songs.
Having played at airports all across the world, Nana plays the piano to escape the bustle of the
atmosphere and to help others relax in the process.
“I think that at a place like an airport, where it’s busy and stressful, it’s nice to have a break, so I sit back and play,” Nana said. “Sometimes people join me and play their own instrument; I’m always hoping someone plays with me.”
The MSP-based pilot recalls one particular encounter with a musical stranger in the airport earlier this year. Having taken the early shuttle to the MSP airport to have time to play the piano before heading home, Nana had been playing for a couple of hours when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“This man asked if he could play the violin with me, and I was very excited to have a partner,” remembers Nana. “People started surrounding us and enjoyed the music; for a small moment in the airport, we brought people together and made them stop and relax.”
The habit of playing piano in airports, specifically in Minneapolis, began in Nana’s training days. It
became a part of his everyday routine, a way to cope with a personal loss.
“I unfortunately lost one of my best friends during training, who was a phenomenal pianist, and so that was very hard,” Nana said. “I didn’t even realize it was an escape until later into training. It was therapeutic and it helped me cope with the things in my life.”
Whether playing solo or with a spontaneous partner, Nana said that playing music in the terminal makes him feel more connected to passengers.
“That’s how music works; it translates to all languages and is one universal language,” said Nana.
“I’m hoping more people will join me in the future and we can harmonize together through music.”