Braille Piano Takes Center Stage in Tribeca Park Concert

On a rainy June afternoon, jazz pianist Danny Kean joined other blind and visually impaired musicians for a "Sing for Hope" concert in Tribeca Park. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jul. 03, 2015

For two weeks each summer during the past four years, brightly colored pianos, each painted by a different artist, have graced parks and other public spaces throughout the city for all to play and see. It’s a public arts project of Sing for Hope, an organization that donates the uniquely reimagined instruments to schools and hospitals.

Last month, one piano, by Laura Ricciardi, did not get the vibrant flourishes of an artist’s brush that the other 49 received. Instead, hers was all white, with messages of love, hope and strength, in Braille and raised lettering. This piano, called “Undiscovered,” was meant to be read as well as played by those who cannot see her creation.

“The idea came from thinking of the piano as a really tactile instrument,” Ricciardi explained. “But I also wanted to create a work that from far away looks very plain, yet up close it becomes apparent that something is actually there.”

At a pop-up concert on June 20, organized by Ricciardi, it was the musical touch of some remarkable blind and visually impaired musicians—among them Johnny Young, Bree Klaus, Brooke Fox and Danny Kean—who brought the piano to life.

The musicians came by way of talent agent Ted Fass, who himself is blind, and Visionary Media, a nonprofit that provides training, resources, and opportunities for entertainers with blindness.

Opera singer Camille Zamora, who co-founded “Sing for Hope” in 2006 with fellow vocalist Monica Yunus, said the event was meant to reinforce the organization's slogan, “Art for All.”

“Everybody’s invited in and we benefit in coming together around art,” Zamora said. “It brings together people who might not look the same, live in the same kind of zip code or be of the same age bracket but can unite and commune through art.”

Ricciardi, the artist, said it was a thrill and a bit overwhelming to see her piano out on the street, being played—and read.

“I was on the verge of tears the whole day,” she said.

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