Daniel J. Wakin’s recent front page article in The New York Times, For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump, brought into stark relief the modern tragedy unfolding in our nation’s homes and communal spaces. As the Co-Founders of Sing for Hope, the “artists’ peace corps” behind New York’s Pop-Up Pianos, we were moved almost to tears by Wakin’s vivid depiction of unwanted pianos being tossed into landfills. As we sat at our conference table made of two recycled piano lids during a summer in which we’d been unable to secure funding to bring the Pop-Up Pianos back to our city streets, it was an especially difficult story to read.
For over a century, the trusty upright piano has embodied the connective power of music and turned the simplest spaces into concert halls, regardless of the age or expertise of the player. It has been so much more than a piece of furniture, bringing people together and allowing music to be an integral part of daily life. Recently, the interactive, collaborative music that once filled our lives has been eroded by “curated” Pandora playlists and YouTube videos. While this may have enhanced the ease and accessibility of our music consumption, a vital component has been lost. Experienced live in a club or hall or park, jazz soars in a way that it doesn’t coming from an iPad, and Mozart did not compose for an app. How will our next generation of music-makers and listeners be affected if instruments go the way of the landline? Pianos cannot be replaced by electronic gadgetry, and the destruction of so many is what inspired us, and our non-profit organization Sing for Hope, to act.
With a roster of more than 1,000 professional artists who volunteer their time and talent, we knew were uniquely positioned to bring unwanted pianos to loving new homes in the community. In 2010 and 2011, Sing for Hope placed pianos in the parks and public spaces of New York’s 5 boroughs in a summertime celebration of art and music, saving hundreds of pianos from the fate outlined by Mr. Wakin’s article. Our Pop-Up Pianos were restored by our skilled piano technician and his team of young tuners in a donated warehouse space. Volunteer artists, chosen in an open application process and ranging from Olek to Sophie Matisse to Isaac Mizrahi, made each piano into a colorful, individually credited, utterly unique work of art.
The Pop-Up Pianos were then placed outside for two weeks for anyone and everyone to enjoy, reaching an estimated 2 million people. After their public residency, the pianos were donated to schools, healthcare facilities, and community-based organizations where Sing for Hope provides in-depth arts programming year-round. The project generated new life for instruments, individuals, and communities – an example of urban recycling at its best.
The Pop-Up Pianos are usable public art, and they continue to have life long after leaving the streets. We hope to bring them back to the public spaces of our great city in 2013. We are committed to their model of communal harmony and to the continued relevance of all pianos, those great interactive gadgets of the nineteenth century, even as we move further into the twenty-first. We will continue to fight for the music to play on, and work to save these invaluable sources of beauty and human connection from the landfill.
FREE THE PIANOS! DONATE TODAY.
Your contribution brings new life to pianos and to people, as the pianos are:
- Rehabbed by Sing for Hope’s expert team of piano technicians
- Remade into individually credited, unique works of art by professional artists who volunteer their time and talent
- Donated to new homes in NYC’s neediest schools, healthcare facilities, and community-based organizations
- Brought to new life year-round via Sing for Hope’s ongoing performances, classes, and collaborative workshops
To honor the memory of a dear friend who spent his final days at Houston’s Omega House Hospice, Camille organized a benefit concert which is now one of the country’s largest annual AIDS fundraisers. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Monica, the daughter of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, brought together colleagues from The Metropolitan Opera in concert to benefit the hurricane’s victims.
In 2006, recognizing their shared passions, Camille and Monica, who became close friends while in the Master’s Degree program at The Juilliard School, established Sing for Hope as a resource for professional artists to use their art to give back to their communities.
Both sopranos continue active performing careers. Monica has performed at The Metropolitan Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Washington National Opera among many others, and in recital on three continents. Camille has performed principal roles with companies including Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera, and has collaborated with musical artists ranging from Plácido Domingo to Sting.
Sing for Hope is an artists’ peace corps. We’re made up of artists of all kinds – opera singers, painters, jazz musicians, actors, ballet dancers – who volunteer in programs that bring the transformative power of the arts to underserved schools, hospitals, and communities in need. We also bring the Pop-Up Pianos to our parks and public spaces in an open festival that celebrates our vision of art for all.
At Sing for Hope, we believe that all people should have the opportunity to express the art that lives inside of them.
We at Sing for Hope – an NYC-based, artist-led nonprofit – make that happen.