Sing for Hope Pianos Returns to Fill NYC's Public Spaces With Music

Franck de Las Mercedes
Franck de Las Mercedes
Courtesy of Sing for Hope Pianos

After a year off, Sing for Hope Pianos is returning to New York City, resuming its tradition of installing public pianos throughout the city for two weeks in the summer.

The charity organization was founded in 2006 by Juilliard-trained singers Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, and aims to make music and art more accessible in the community. The Sing for Hope Pianos public art installation began in 2011 and ran for three consecutive summers (enduring minor complications early on).

The project sat 2014 out — Zamora and Yunus say they were focusing on other projects — and this summer's installment brings a measure of change to the proceedings. Unlike in previous years, when 88 pianos were featured (symbolic of a piano's full set of keys), this year's Sing for Hope Pianos will pare the number down to 50, scattered among parks and public spaces across the five boroughs. As in previous iterations, each piano will be colorfully decorated, designed by a volunteering artist. Past contributors have included New Yorkers Laura Ricciardi, James Alicea, and Michael Miller, and joining them this year is Franck de Las Mercedes.

A Nicaraguan-born, Washington Heights–raised artist, Mercedes dreamt up the highly acclaimed 2006 project "The Priority Boxes," which found their way into over 70 countries and onto the illuminating LED screens of Times Square in 2012.

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Mercedes's design for his Sing for Hope Pianos contribution is a celebration of one of New York's most famous imperatives — "Post No Bills" — as well as a tribute to the graffiti and gritty walls that inspired him as he grew up in the city.

This two-week exhibition begins June 5 and will run until June 21. Once the exhibit is completed the pianos will be re-tuned and refurbished so that they may be donated to local community-based organizations.

Sing for Hope Pianos is seeking volunteers to help with activities ranging from being a "piano buddy," a monitor and protector of a specific piano, to photographing the instruments and their impromptu players.

Speaking of which, another way to contribute to the cause is to choke back your trepidation that your rusty skills aren't worthy of public display after all these years — get out there! But please, keep the "Für Elise" to an absolute minimum. (Extra points if you bring "Rhapsody in Blue" into the picture, though.)

See also: The Street Pianos Are Coming! New York's Latest Public Art Experiment Video: The Street Pianos Are Here, and Being Played! A Hundred Boomboxes Will Rove the Streets of New York City in January

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