Stories From The Heart: Sing For Hope pianos bring art to city schools

NEW YORK — You’ve probably seen them in public spaces across the five boroughs.

Each June, for the last six years, the Sing For Hope pianos have been placed in public parks and spaces for anyone and everyone to play.

"I think a lot of folks know them as this fun sort of burst of creativity in the summertime in the parks… what a lot of people don’t realize is that the heart of the program is what happens to the pianos after they leave the streets," said Camille Zamora.

They come here. To classrooms in New York City public schools.

"The piano is easily the coolest warmest most inviting aspect of my classroom," said Erin Young.

Erin Young is the music teacher at P.S. 8 in Manhattan. She says she knew about the pianos on the street and even played a couple of them, so when the opportunity came her way to have one.

"I think I did my application at 11:59 the day it way due. And honestly I forgot about it for awhile. And then sing for hope tracked m​e down ," she said.

Not only has the piano become the focal point of her classroom.

"Its also created opportunities for me to have professional musicians come in. And I get to assess them on this," Young said.

The brainchild of Julliard alums and best friends Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, Sing For Hope Pianos is one of the country’s largest public arts projects — reaching an estimated two million New Yorkers each year. It’s a tough application process:
first choosing which artists will get to design the pianos, and then which schools will receive them.

"Of course every school deserves a piano. For 86 percent of the schools… it’s their first working piano so it really makes a difference," said Zamora.

The piano P.S. 8 received was designed by a young artist named Alina Rayas.

"She designed this piano to look like the house she grew up in in Texas. She actually has all the names of her family members on the piano," said Lester Vrtiak.

"Sing for hope was wonderful. I got to meet the artist, who is an incredible human being," said Young.

Bringing artists and New Yorkers from all walks of life — together.