Sing for Hope brings painted pianos to the sidewalks of Queens

Paul Joseph, founder of the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra, plays the Sing for Hope piano placed outside Flushing Town Hall, accompanied by Bo Yeon Hong, Second Violin from the orchestra.
Photo by Merle Exit
By Merle Exit

Place an artistically decorated piano at high traffic locations in New York City and you never know who will stop by and tickle the ivories.

Sing for Hope is back on the streets with 60 painted pianos in communities all over New York City, and Paul Joseph, founder of the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra, showed off his musical chops outside Flushing Town Hall on the pianos where Long Island City artist Gilly Gil-lugo showed her talent with the brush.

With the orchestra headquartered in downtown Flushing, this was the perfect spot to woo a crowd and encourage people to try out the piano, or just enjoy the music.

And as luck would have it, Bo Yeon Hong, second violin from the orchestra was passing by on her way to a practice session. Joseph had already composed a classical piece on the spot when Hong took out her violin and asked Joseph to accompany her.

Onlookers applauded, and everyone stopping by took out their cellphones to video the preformance or take a photo with Joseph. Parents were encouraging their sons and daughters, children and adults alike, to play just for a photo op. There were some who sang as well.

Gil-lugo’s decoration of the piano was also strikingly apt for the setting in the heart of the borough’s Chinatown. She adorned the front of the piano with a beautiful quote: “Music in the soul can be heard by the Universe,” attributed to Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, China’s most ancient philosophy.

The Sing for Hope pianos were placed at nine different locations across Queens June 5, and will remain in place until June 26, when they will be donated to local public schools for their music programs.

To ensure the instruments remain in good condition after three weeks on the streets, the hosting institutions agree to take care of the pianos, according to Amin Sardar, who works at Flushing Town Hall and is responsible for watching over the piano there.

“The pianos have a special cover for when we close it to the public or if it is raining,” said Sardar.

The piano is so popular with passers-by that he has some difficulty at closing time.

“Although there are specific hours, closing time is by far the hardest to do. There are so many people coming toward the evening that want to play. Lines are formed.”

The Sing for Hope pianos initiative is the city’s largest annual public arts project, which reaches about 2 million New Yorkers annually across the five boroughs. You can find a map of all 60 pianos across the city at www.singforhope.org/pianos/.

In addition to the one outside Flushing Town Hall at 137-35 Northern Blvd., you can find the other eight Sign for Hope pianos in Queens in the following locations:

• Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., on the raised platform in the herb garden.

• Roy Wilkins Recreation Center, 177-01 Baisley Blvd., on the right of the center entrance.

• Sorrentino Recreation Center, 18-48 Cornaga Ave., outside, in front of building in courtyard.

• Paul Raimonda Park, 20th Ave., between 47th and 48th streets, along the fence in the middle of the park.

• Hunter’s Point South Park, Borden Ave. and Center Blvd., on the right side of the concession stand.

• Kaufman Astoria Studios, 34-12 36th St., at the Kaufman Astoria Studios entrance.

• Yellowstone Park, 68th Ave. and Yellowstone Blvd., mid-level in park, looking over basketball court.

• Rockaway Beach, Boardwalk at 86th, 8601 Shore Front Pkwy., across from the Building 86 restrooms.

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