Amidst New York’s busy streets and bustling sidewalks are pianos covered in murals, vibrant colors and poetic words. And they’re free to play.
Sing For Hope – a non-profit trying to bring arts to under resourced areas – has set up 50 pianos in the five boroughs. The pianos are available rain or shine until June 21st for everyone to play – genius musicians and budding amateurs alike.
"I am so excited that this brings music to people in such a random way," said Petra Trtnik, 33, a sound therapist visiting from Slovakia. She used the piano at Astor Place to send an impromptu birthday song to her sister. "Art is just a universal language. I say more, more, more!"
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Each one-of-a-kind piano is painted by one of Sing For Hope’s over 1,500 volunteer artists. Frank De Las Mercedes, 42, is one of these artists. Hidden in the shade of the Astor Place subway entrance he watches as on goers take to the keys of his bright blue piano plastered with photos of street performers and the well-known "post no bills" sign.
"I wanted to make a piano that celebrated the vibrant energy and people of New York," De Las Mercedes said. His creation took a little under a month to make and he's happy about the response his - and other - pianos have received. "(The pianos) break people's routines and the hustle and bustle of the city."
“Access to the arts is a right, not a privilege,” said Camille Zamora, co-founder of Sing For Hope. Since 2010, the organization has placed almost 300 pianos around New York City. Afterward, the pianos get donated to schools, hospitals and other areas in need.
Twenty percent of New York’s urban schools do not have a full nor part-time arts teacher, according to the office of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
“I don't have a piano at home and I have to practice so I go to church but it's a long way," said student Paula La Verde, 20, who just started learning how to play two weeks ago. "Now I can just come here and practice. It's great."
“It’s tough to do this work as a nonprofit,” said Zamora. “But it’s hearing those stories of a person being exposed to a piano for the first time and falling in love that keeps us going.”
For more information about Sing For Hope and a list of where you can find a piano in NYC visit: http://www.singforhope.org.