Video: Public pianos strike chord in NY

  1. Transcript of: Public pianos strike chord in NY

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: reported by a lot of New Yorkers on the streets of this city today. Turns out it was music , as in from an actual piano outdoors in the middle of it all. And it turns out there's a good reason for it. Our report tonight from NBC 's Rehema Ellis .

    REHEMA ELLIS reporting: This is the music of the city. But today New York streets have an added rhythm. In Times Square , an old piano has been spruced up and marked with a clear invitation, encouraging anyone to stop and tickle the ivories for free.

    I've never like played anywhere except my home pretty much, so it's really cool.

    Unidentified Woman: That's just what British artist Luke Jerram was hoping for. He came up with the idea for an outdoor art project two years ago to inspire city folks to interact.

    ELLIS: The pianos are a blank canvas for everyone else in the city to express themselves and to have a great time and to connect with one another.

    Mr. LUKE JERRAM (Street Pianos Creator): The pianos exhibit first hit the streets in England , Brazil and Australia , and has generated a YouTube following. But the biggest exhibit yet is right here in New York City . Sixty old, unwanted pianos like this one have been placed at parks, on street corners and famous landmarks. It's an effort organized by a nonprofit artist group Sing for Hope . There are all sorts of players, from students of the art...

    ELLIS: And I love playing it outdoor in nature, so it's just like, you know, it's pretty nice.

    Unidentified Man #1: professionals, to wannabes.

    ELLIS: Did you get any tips?

    Offscreen Voice: No. Nothing in the hat today.

    Unidentified Man #2: I think it's great. I don't really know what it's for, but whatever it is it -- I think it's wonderful and they should probably do it again if they can.

    Unidentified Man #3: After two weeks in New York , the show closes here, but these pianos will be donated to local schools and community groups so the music can go on. Rehema Ellis,


updated 6/21/2010 9:55:55 AM ET 2010-06-21T13:55:55

Consider them keys to the city: Anyone who gets a sudden itch to tickle the ivories will be able to play free public pianos in 50 places throughout New York City, from the Coney Island boardwalk to the Metropolitan Museum.

An art installation touring the world is making its first U.S. stop beginning Monday. For two weeks, players can play tunes on pianos all over New York City, at famous landmarks like the Lincoln Center, the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island ferry terminal and Central Park's bandshell.

The concept, devised by British artist Luke Jerram, has put more than 130 pianos in parks, squares and bus stations since 2008 in cities including London, Sydney and Sao Paulo. And now it's New York City's turn to play, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday.

"There's going to be a huge amount of talent here," Jerram said in an interview. "The piano's actually a blank canvas for everyone's creativity, really, so I just hope that the city enjoys it."

The New York installation will be the largest in the project. It is double the size of the previous largest — 30 pianos in London last year.

Each of the 60 pianos to be installed throughout New York has its own attendants responsible for its care. That involves unlocking the keyboard at 9 a.m. every day and deploying a heavy tarp over the instrument if it rains.

The pianos were donated for the cause and have been painted and decorated by artists.

They will be delivered to 27 locations in Manhattan, 10 in Brooklyn, five in Queens and four each in Staten Island and the Bronx.

Surprising and life-changing
Jerram got the idea at his local coin-operated laundry, according to a website about the project. He saw the same people there every weekend, but none of them talked to each other. He thought a piano might help bring people together in places like that.

The results in other cities have been surprising and life-changing, he said in an interview. A woman in Sao Paulo heard her daughter play for the first time on one of Jerram's pianos in a train station. The mother had worked to pay for lessons for four years, but the family had no piano at home.

In Sydney, a couple met at a piano and are now married, Jerram said.

On Thursday, Bloomberg and other city officials unveiled a piano in a waterfront park in Queens, where passers-by welcomed the art installation.

"It seems like a good idea that brings a sense of fun and playfulness to the city," said David Rosenfeld, who was riding his bike in the area.

Most pianos will be open for song until 10 p.m.

After the art installation concludes, the pianos will be donated to schools and hospitals, according to Sing for Hope, a nonprofit that coordinated the New York project.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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