Sing for Hope: Providing pianos with purpose

There's a brand new music room at P94M, a special education school in Manhattan's East Village. Inside, the teachers are seeing their students' lives transform.

"We work with children with emotional disturbance, children with autism, children with intellectual disabilities," said Tessa Derfner, the arts coach. "This provides a very therapeutic space for them."

Sing For Hope donates its pianos to schools, hospitals and community organizations.
Nick Dietz/CBSNews.com

The room, and the music emanating from it, are only possible because of a generous gift from Sing for Hope.

The New York City non-profit organization donated an upright piano beautifully decorated in city-themed black and white graffiti. The piano was the catalyst for creating the transformative room, said teaching artist Scott Evan Davis.

"No matter what happens all year, we always have a place that is ours to go," he told CBSNews.com. "And, it makes the kids feel special. That's the coolest part."

The non-profit organization, whose mission is "art for all," mobilizes a roster of nearly 1,500 volunteer artists in the community. The volunteers donate their time and talent in a variety of ways, but they're best known for the Pianos project.

It all starts in a warehouse filled with pianos.

Before donating the pianos, Sing For Hope places them in parks and public spaces throughout New York City for everyone to enjoy.
Nick Dietz/CBSNews.com

"These pianos come from all over the place," Sing for Hope co-founder Camille Zamora said. "We get them from wholesalers, some are donated, some are relatively new, some are ancient."

A team of volunteer visual artists, hand-picked from a mountain of applications, brings each piano to life.

Then, for 16 days in June, Sing for Hope places 88 pianos - one for every key - in parks and public spaces throughout New York City. Anyone and everyone is welcome to play a tune.

"You've got the families that'll come up and the kids are touching the piano or the first time," said co-founder Monica Yunus. "They'll bang on it, they'll, you know, they'll interact with it. And, that's, you know, that's the best part of it."

Once their stint on the streets is over, the pianos are donated to schools, hospitals and community organizations, like P94M.

But Sing For Hope's work isn't over once the pianos are donated. The volunteers continue to work on them year-round.

"We work with organizations to keep them in tune and keep them working well," said Sing for Hope executive director Bobby Kean. "We bring in our artists to give classes or to give workshops to teach people how to use the pianos, but also how to interpret the art that's on it."

"I just feel like the luckiest teacher ever, that we got this for our kids," Derfner said, "to give them a voice."

A voice that sings for hope.

  • Nicholas Dietz On Twitter»

    Nick Dietz is the host of "The Feed" and an assistant producer/on-camera personality for CBSNews.com

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.