Monthly Archives: August 2015
Thursday, June 18th: I only had two main goals remaining: record I Dreamed A Dream from Les Misérables and find all 50 Sing For Hope Pianos. My friend Lauren was again graciously accompanying me in order to help me accomplish the first goal. However, because of cloudiness and the chance of scattered showers, we found several nearby pianos in Manhattan to be closed.
I decided that it was too risky to travel all the way to the three remaining pianos since they might also be closed. I reasoned that since I had only three pianos remaining, it made more sense to continue to travel to nearby pianos (that I had already visited) in the hopes of getting a good recording. At least I could complete my first goal this way.
Times Square Piano
- I was surprised to find the black key that had been missing from this piano the previous week replaced and the piano itself in perfect working condition. So the pianos in Manhattan really do receive much more love and attention after all.
- To my delight and amusement, a man said that I was his “superstar” after I sung Stars.
- I later found out from Lauren that two men had set up a big camera behind me and recorded me while I sung I Dreamed A Dream. At the time, a girl named Maria told me I had a great voice after I had finished singing.
- I also met this girl named Bree and accompanied her while she sung On My Own (also from Les Mis). She was very happy with my accompaniment and talked to me for a while about her band. She also shared with me that she was both legally blind and completely colorblind. She said she sees the world in shades of gray, which would mean that she has monochromatic vision.
Herald Square Piano
- I sung I Dreamed A Dream here and played some piano pieces as well. I met a man named Russ who spoke very highly about me as a musician, but also criticized some aspects of my piano technique. The man was clearly not a classical pianist and furthermore was acting like the piano belonged to him. I told Lauren (and myself) how silly it was to get negatively affected by just a few words from him.
- I also briefly spoke to Jeremiah, a classical pianist who told me that he had really enjoyed my playing.
Astor Place Piano
- Unfortunately, in the end I later decided that I wasn’t completely happy with any full takes of I Dreamed A Dream (I almost was!), but this was my favorite clip (sorry for the poor quality):
- I got dinner and spent time with Lauren for a while. After we parted ways, I went back to the Astor Place piano by myself.
- Amazingly, this girl named Sherry came up to me and said she recognized me from one of my performances in Central Park the week before! I was very taken aback for three reasons: it had been over a week since then, we had never even spoken, and she was so sure that it was me! But she showed me video that she had taken and it was indeed me playing the piano. I was very flattered that she had remembered me and we had a very nice chat. I then gave her my e-mail address and we took a picture together.
- I met four great people soon afterwards – two teachers and two assistant principals who were visiting a charter school in the city. Of course I had my Les Misérables piano / vocal book with me in my backpack, so I took it out and had a lot of fun singing through some songs with one of the assistant principals before they had to leave.
- I performed solo both Broadway songs and classical pieces and they were very well received by people nearby.
- I met Shun, a singer. He asked me if I could sight-read and I said, “Well, maybe! It depends.” I then sight-read the accompaniment to a song that he had with him. It was easy enough that I was able to follow him very well and we had a very successful performance.
- I was very happy that I had such huge successes that day with playing, singing, and accompanying. I had also regained a lot of confidence in my singing after my performances had been so well-received multiple times.
Piano 48: Carmine Carro Community Center
- Friday, June 19th: I woke up fairly confident that I would be able to find the remaining three pianos. I was also aware, however, that there was a chance of scattered showers by the early afternoon.
- Carmine Carro Community Center is located in Marine Park in Brooklyn. For some reason, there is no subway stop anywhere near the park and I irrationally didn’t want to take the bus. I ended up walking half an hour from the Q train stop.
- When I arrived, I thought for a moment that the piano was missing (just like the missing piano in Staten Island), but it turned out that I was just on the wrong side.
- I really felt such a relaxed, open vibe from this community center.
- There were a bunch of kids happily taking turns playing and singing together at the piano. I felt bad interrupting them, but after 15 minutes decided that I could take no further chances with the weather.
- The kids were all impressed with my playing and very interested in the fact that I was close to completing my quest to find the 50 pianos.
I conquered my inexplicable fear of New York City buses and took one by myself for the first time by using Google Maps – of course, it really wasn’t a big deal.
Before I got on the subway, I noticed a homeless woman holding a sign. I used to just completely ignore people holding signs, but I had decided recently that I would at least read them from a respectable distance and decide if the person was really intending to use the money to feed themselves (or for some other positive purpose). Apparently, she had many severe medical conditions and needed money for surgeries. When I talked to her, I found out that she was a lover of classical music and also used to play the piano. But she had lost two of the fingers on her right hand due to complications from her illnesses! Our talk really made me reflect once again on how incredibly lucky I am to be happy, healthy, and able to make music. I gave her some money, wished her good luck, and continued on my way.
Piano 49: McGolrick Park
- I had actually already been to the two remaining pianos. Both of them had previously been closed because of rain.
- There weren’t many people around, but the location and the piano were both rather beautiful.
- Several of the keys also didn’t work on this piano, so I played only briefly and hoped that the last piano would be open.
Piano 50: WNYC Transmitter Park
- Somehow, things worked out wonderfully and I arrived to find the final piano not only open, but completely available for me to play.
- I celebrated by playing for quite a long time. A small group of people nearby were kind enough to applaud after each piece.
At the end of the Sing For Hope Pianos event, I found that I had:
- Gained a huge amount of experience as both pianist and singer
- Become able to perform any piece in any situation (immediately upon sitting down!), regardless of the condition of the piano, the location, the weather, and any number of distractions
- Helped a lot of new pieces to grow by performing them whenever possible
- Recorded a lot of my playing to share with family, friends, and whoever is interested
- Further convinced myself of the power of mental practicing: Not only did I use it to keep all of my repertoire in my head without too much physical practicing, but I also used it to learn correct mistakes as I went from piano to piano. In addition, I was also getting a head start on learning even newer pieces.
- Met so many wonderful people
- Seen so many beautiful locations and pianos
- Written these eight blog posts (and I had no idea they would end up so lengthy!) detailing everything that happened along the way
- Completed an unforgettable adventure with the help of my parents and my dear friend Lauren
Sing for Hope made me this lovely image upon hearing of my completion of the All 50 Challenge. I think I was one of only five people to find all of the pianos. I was also invited to Sing For Hope’s office where I received a bag full of goodies as a reward and met their very warm and accommodating staff.
Thank you so much for reading and I’m looking forward to writing about my other projects very soon!
Piano 39: Joyce Kilmer Park
- Wednesday, June 17th: Just like I had visited most of the pianos in the Bronx with my dad, I decided that the only way to visit all of the Staten Island pianos was to plan a fun day trip with my mom.
- I decided to meet my mom at Joyce Kilmer Park, the final location in the Bronx that I had already visited twice (and that had been closed both times). Third time’s the charm, because the piano was finally open!
- My mom even sat down and played a little bit of lovely Chinese music. I hadn’t heard her play piano in a very long time!
- There were a few keys sticking on this piano as well. I figured that as the Sing for Hope event went on, more and more pianos would be suffering from the weather, so I was only slightly disappointed. But nothing could have prepared for me for what would happen at the next location…
- We went all the way to Staten Island next to find the piano located at the South Beach Boardwalk. One of my students had just sent me a picture of herself playing this piano the previous week. But when we got there, the piano was nowhere to be found!
- I thought we must have just been slightly confused about the location, so my mom and I decided to split up and walk in opposite directions along the boardwalk. But even after a few minutes of walking, there was nothing to suggest even a hint of a piano.
- I ultimately decided to jog in one direction for a small distance while my mom rested. I actually reached the end of the boardwalk and again found nothing! Jogging part of the way in the other direction also resulted in no leads.
- I even asked two different people who were working at food stands if they had seen the piano and neither of them knew what I was talking about.
- I thought the whole situation was so strange. The pianos were always very carefully secured and should have been impossible to steal. Plus, I had found pianos that had suffered from quite a bit of damage in the past. Was there any reason to just completely remove the piano before the end of the event when the entire event lasts only two weeks?
- Finally, I found someone working at a food stand who said that they had definitely seen a piano there the previous week, but that they didn’t know what had happened to it.
- Slightly disappointed and confused, my mom and I decided to simply move on to the next location. I sent Sing For Hope an e-mail to let them know the situation and hopefully get a satisfactory explanation.
- But yet again, even after this, I wasn’t at all ready for what would occur at the next few locations…
Piano 40: Tappen Park
- It’s a bit difficult to tell from the picture, but this piano had many keys that were sticking – even more so than the piano in Joyce Kilmer Park!
- So this piano, regrettably, was virtually unplayable. I figured that the pianos all the way out in Staten Island were much less frequently visited than pianos in, for instance, Manhattan. I made a decision to notify Sing For Hope about any pianos I found that had an unusual amount of damage, as it was possible that they would not find out about them otherwise.
- Around this time, I received a very prompt and polite reply from Sing For Hope about the piano located at the South Beach Boardwalk – the piano HAD indeed been removed because of extensive damage! Apparently that information had been listed on the website somewhere, but I hadn’t known about it. That piano would not count against me if I was trying to find all 50 pianos. Although I was very surprised that the piano had been removed, I was relieved that the mystery had been solved.
Piano 41: Clove Lakes Park
- I was absolutely horrified to find this piano completely destroyed. Many of the black keys were lying pitifully on the ground.
- Could this really be only because of the weather? Were the black keys on this piano particularly fragile for some reason? After all, the black keys had not come off on any of the other pianos. Or was it, in fact, vandalism? Seriously? What kind of person would destroy a piano for no reason?
Piano 42: Faber Park Field House
- The images may not be as graphic as those of the previous piano, but if you look closely, you’ll see that virtually the entire keybed has sunk because of water damage.
- Like the previous piano, the keys could not be budged a millimeter. I was really at a loss for words at the time.
- Of course, I notified Sing For Hope about this and the preceding pianos. They responded quickly and were very thankful that I had notified them. They said that they would send people to take a look at the pianos as soon as possible. I was realizing through my communications with them what an incredibly genuine, down-to-earth group of people the Sing For Hope team was.
- This is, of course, the dark side and the risk of organizing a wonderful project like the Sing For Hope Pianos. Not everyone is responsible. Not everyone takes care of the pianos. We can only rely on the kindness and wisdom of strangers. Even if the worst happens, as in these cases, we remember what incredible joy and excitement the instruments brought to their respective communities before they were destroyed. And hopefully we can learn from these mistakes as we move on to future projects.
Piano 43: Conference House
- Finally, a working piano!
- If you look at the second image, you’ll see that the lid of the piano was originally open only halfway when we arrived. A woman had been playing the piano with the lid in this state and I thought for a moment that this piano was also somehow broken. I played for a little while in the same fashion until I realized that there was a little latch on the side in the way of the lid. Very silly.
- I still wanted to do some recordings, but there were people relaxing and enjoying the quiet nearby. It didn’t seem appropriate to disrupt the environment with a virtuosic piece in this setting.
- Plus, for some reason there were lots of flies buzzing around this piano and my mom was continuously trying to shoo them away while I was playing. There didn’t seem to be any reason why they would congregate around the piano. I guess the flies must really love music..?
Piano 44: Historic Richmond Town
- This was a really refreshing, quaint, quiet spot with a beautiful golden-keyed piano. I was happy that the last Staten Island piano we visited had turned out to be the best one. It also seemed to be the perfect place to record.
- We actually got interrupted by a random man who started asking us questions while my mom was recording. We decided to leave him alone for a little while since he wanted to play the piano. Thankfully he was gone when we returned.
- Nobody else showed up at all during the remainder of our time there.
- My mom recorded for me this clip of Chopin’s Étude Op. 10 No. 12 (“Revolutionary”).
- I was also very happy that I was able to achieve one of my main goals for this project: record in its entirety Godowsky’s arrangement of the same piece for left hand alone:
Piano 45: South Beach Boardwalk
- My mom and I both thought it would be a good idea to at least take a picture of the location with the missing piano, so we stopped by on the way back to Brooklyn.
Piano 46: Rockaway Park
- My mom is superhuman, so even though we had already visited all the Staten Island pianos (plus the one in the Bronx), she drove us all the way to Rockaway Park!
- It was strangely cold by this point, and I had goosebumps wearing short-sleeves.
- I was surprised to discover someone playing Chopin Preludes quite musically. I wondered if the man was a serious pianist. Since it was cold and getting late, though, I decided not to stay and chat for too long. He did express that he really liked my playing before I left.
Piano 47: Roy Wilkins Recreation Center
- This piano was in Jamaica, Queens and was our final stop for the day.
- Again, nobody was around, and I played only briefly before we decided to head home.
- It was funny how I had barely played any pianos the entire day since a lot of them were damaged and one of them was missing. It was also funny how almost nobody had heard me play the piano that day. Yet, just being able to play for my mom at a few locations and spending so much time together made the entire day worth it.
- Also, I absolutely loved how the entire piano adventure was always so utterly unpredictable.
Next post – the end of the Sing For Hope Pianos journey!