A few of the musicians warm up at one of several blocks of pianos spread throughout 28 Liberty. 

Yesterday’s Sing For Hope kick-off event at 28 Liberty marks the start of the program’s sixth consecutive year bringing music to the boroughs through a collection of artist-altered pianos. Sing for Hope, an arts-and-culture foundation whose mission is to keep the arts alive, considers art to be a right to all, and think of the field as “vital to our well-being,” according to founders and executive directors, Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora.

The way the program aims to achieve this goal is by spreading 62 uprights, gathered yesterday at 28 Liberty, across all of New York City’s five boroughs in parks and other public spaces before then placing them in over 60 different New York City public schools after June 25. Sing for Hope estimates the effect of these pianos will radiate to over 15,000 young students and over 2 million people.

A crowd gathers in 28 Liberty to hear the opening remarks by Monica and Camille (left); Buttons, T-shirts, and other merchandise sporting the foundation’s logo were available at yesterday’s event for all to purchase (right).

The idea is that these pianos will encourage musicians, artists, and culture lovers to explore New York and support the arts as they scour the city to find, and maybe even play, all 62. Now, with over 400 pianos spread around the city since Sing For Hope’s 2010 inception, New York City is officially home to more street pianos than any other city in the world, according to Zamora and Yunus. New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner, Mitchell Silver — who was the recipient of the foundation’s “Art for All” award this year — also stated that Parks and Recreation’s exhibition of the pianos is its most popular outdoor showing all year long.

From professionals to pedestrians everyone had the opportunity to make some music at the event. 

Of course, the other key aspect of the pianos is that each has been extravagantly painted by fine artists from all over the city, who had their artists’ statements presented on each piano. The instruments displayed everything from bold color blocking and simply stated messages of equality to photography collages of the Bronx.

Artist and Photographer Trevon Blondet, who calls the Bronx his home, is responsible for art that covers this piano. As a member of the Bronx Photo League, he and his fellow members worked to explore and document “the stories of people who live and work on Jerome Avenue for eight months in 2015-2016 in the wake of gentrification,” according to his artist statement. 

To wrap up today’s event, musician and educator Jon Batiste, who is probably best known for his role as bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, led multiple pianists in a special performance of Bach’s Prelude in C.

Afterwards, the crowd was turned loose to talk to the artists and musicians, and to try their own hand at the pianos both within and just outside of 28 Liberty; however, that’s not the end of the professional capacity for the pianos. There are already several pop-up performances scheduled to take place in various locations throughout New York City.

Opera singer Clare Kuttler (left) accompanied by pianist laetitia Ruccolo (center) collected quite the crowd during an impromptu performance on the piano Clare herself is responsible for turning into a work of art. 

For more information about the foundation, to learn about how you can volunteer or to donate to the cause, visit Sing For Hope’s official website or feel free to download the Sing For Hope app on iTunes. See here for a map of the piano locations.

Next, check out 21 more Outdoor Art Installations Not to Miss in NYC in June 2017 or continue to get your music fix by tracing  the Patti Smith Trail in NYC from Tompkins Square Park to CBGB. Get in touch with the author: @Erika_A_Stark