In the music room at P94m@15, young students crowd around their school piano, ready to learn. But this is no ordinary instrument: its painted design of black-and-white feathers, deep red accents, and message of ,Freedom set it apart from any piano these students have seen before.
A few years ago, this special education school in Manhattan’s East Village had no music room, its arts classes held in a multi-purpose room that was shared with other school meetings and assemblies. But when SING FOR HOPE donated this one-of-a-kind piano to P94m in October 2013, everything changed.
The fact that we have this room, which would never have happened had this piano not been here…no matter what happens all year, we always have a place that is ours to go, says Scott Davis, a teaching artist with the nonprofit group ARTSCONNECTION. For children with autism and emotional disturbances, a safe space is paramount to their emotional well-being and capacity for self-expression. Says Tessa Derfner, the school’s arts coach, I just feel like the luckiest teacher ever that we got this for our kids to give them a voice. P94m’s piano on location in ManhattanÂ during the 2013 Sing for Hope Pianos installation. Photo by Shawn Hoke
The P94m piano, created by artist JAMES ALICEA, was one of 88 vibrantly painted instruments placed throughout New York City in June of 2013 as part of the Sing for Hope Pianos, the city’s largest and most beloved public art project. For two weeks, these pianos — each a unique work of art — are seen, heard, and played by millions. Some visitors are expert pianists, but many of them are children, some of whom have never touched a piano before.
After the public installation, Sing for Hope donates the pianos to NYC organizations in need — including schools like P94m. In fact, nearly 40% of the pianos donated in 2013 now live in school classrooms and auditoriums throughout the city. The remaining instruments can be found in healthcare facilities and community centers, where they are being enjoyed on a daily basis by New Yorkers of all ages.
Dennis Redmond of QUEENS COMMUNITY HOUSE, a 2013 piano recipient, recalls a few teenagers who asked for permission to use the center’s new neon pink piano. ,We were unaware they played piano and sang as well, but [they] have formed a group that gets together almost every night to play and sing together. Of the whimsical gray and yellow instrument given to PS48X in the Bronx, music teacher Melissa Salguero says simply: This piano has brought life to our school.
Whatever the age or community, the children who interact with these pianos come away with a sense of hope, inspiration, and pride. It makes the kids feel special, says Davis. That’s the coolest part.
Sing for Hope is working to bring the Pianos back in June 2015 to the streets, schools, and communities we serve, but we can’t do it without you. You can help provide music and art to more children like the ones at P94m. Please consider making a gift today.