Billy Joel Helps Open Smithsonian Piano Exhibit

Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Billy Joel was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to celebrate the 300th birthday of the piano, which is being commemorated by a special exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute.

The year-long show at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, titled "Piano 300," opens on Thursday and includes such memorabilia as pianos once used by Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and Liberace.

The oldest piano on display dates from 1722 and was created by Florentine craftsman Bartolomeo Cristofori, whom the Smithsonian credits with having manufactured one of the first pianos back in 1700, although Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small admitted that there was no real way to date the birth of the piano.

During the press conference announcing the exhibit, Joel was also presented with a James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for helping popularize the piano in America, and he will also tape a performance that will be aired on PBS' "Piano Grand" special, set to air in June.