New York, Nu York: Everyone Loves a Piano

In New York City, nearly every June of the last several years, a non-profit organization called Sing For Hope places a few dozen painted pianos around town, for anyone to play. These piano are gently used and painted in all different styles, reflecting various themes, ideas and groups. It is an adorable shtick, and it encourages all kinds of people of various ages and abilities, to play these pianos for fun.
All the pianos are placed in public spaces, and many are located in public parks and playgrounds. I enjoy searching out, playing and photographing these pianos every time. I listen as very skillful musicians, as well as novices and little kids, sit down and tickle the ivories.
On Sunday, June 11th, my husband and I drove to check out two of the Brooklyn pianos, while our two daughters stayed home to study for New York State Regent exams they will take this coming week. It was a very hot and sunny day, and I had worked for five hours in the morning (teaching driving lessons) but I was looking forward to trying the pianos.
The first piano we encountered was at the Grand Army Plaza memorial in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, Just across the street from our beloved Prospect Park and Central Library, I found this piano sitting without a player. It was painted orange, yellow, red and other colors. So I sat down and played "Fur Elise" by Beethoven, and then "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." A man with a huge camera and press credentials on a necklace stopped by, asked if he could snap photos of me playing the piano, and I consented. It was fun and then a few other passers-by came over and I relinquished the piano bench to them.
Shortly after that we went to a nearby park called Washington Park, although many people still refer to it as JJ Byrne Park (its former name). There is a historic building on the western section of this park known as the Old Stone House, and it is from colonial times. At the front entrance fence there was another of these painted pianos, and this one had a subtler motif with painted leaves and a few plants.
Sitting and standing at this piano were two children. One was a girl with blond hair, freckles and pale complexion. A boy was coaching her, helping her play a simple version of the Beatles's "Let It Be." The boy was dark skinned and appeared to be of Arabic descent.
You could not have asked for a finer example of the American Melting Pot. Two kids, of very different backgrounds, bonding over playing the piano. And they were not on their cellphones! And they were outdoors, enjoying music. And it was all so natural.
I spoke with the two kids. The girl was a fourth grader who was taking piano lessons. The boy was an eighth grader at Charles O. Dewey Junior High School in Sunset Park. I asked him which high school was to attend in the fall and he told us Aviation High, in Queens.
They gave up the piano bench to me and I played an old surf rock 'n roll song, and then the popular dance song "The Alley Cat,."
All three of us talked cheerily about music, and a few other people of various ages congregated by us. Then I gave up the bench to an older fellow, who played "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and another "The Star Spangled Banner." Elaborate versions of both. It was entertaining.
This is the New York City I love. Music, casual chatter, sharing. Happy summer, everyone.