It was 93 degrees today in New York City….the heat was radiating from the buildings and the buses…and at 9am sharp I sat down at the piano in Herald Square. I was curious if anyone would actually pay attention this morning…because at 9am you know just about everyone on the streets is late to work. But sure enough, people stopped, and they stayed…and even if they walked by quickly…most turned and smiled. A woman even came over to me and said, “please don’t stop, I’m enjoying your music so much.” A moment into my second song a man hurried by in a perfectly tailored suit that probably cost more than my entire months rent…and when he saw me playing his anxious expression softened and he nodded and cracked a smile. What is it about music that makes even the most hardened of us stop and smile?
After playing a few songs, I myself had to hurry off to work. (Yes, musicians do often have day jobs!). 8 hours later and 8 hours more exhausted, I knew I had to head up to my sixth piano in Riverside Park. I was tired, my shirt was sticking to my back from the heat and all I wanted was a margarita and a lawn chair. I thought to myself, “if I just didn’t go…if I quit and stopped playing these pianos, would anyone know or even care?” But my mother and father taught me that the path to true greatness and self discovery is very rarely paved in margaritas and paper umbrellas. So for those of you who are following…I decided to go and to finish what I started. Along for the ride was my friend and tonight’s camera man, Nando, who when I first met him, was wearing a shirt that said “I love people.” (Which is very fitting for the insight I gained from tonight’s piano experience.) I arrived at the piano on the end of Pier 1. The city sparkled behind me and the water looked like a thousand tiny diamonds scattered across a bed of satin. The wind was in my hair, a lone kayak moved across the river and two rickety, painted pianos sat facing each other. The city was silent. Two young girls sat at one piano and I sat at another, until one of the girls said to me…”here, use this one, it sounds much better!” A stranger, offering to move from her place so that i could use the best. I didn’t have to ask…she just offered. And I sat down and began to play. Nothing profound…it wasn’t Mozart or Chopin or even Jeff Buckley! Just a simple song that I had written that came from the heart! The girls stayed to listen as did a few others who were walking nearby and everyone clapped when I was finished. The girls wanted to know more about my music, where they could hear me again and asked if I would take a picture with them so that they could tell all of their friends about me. An older man nearby said he played bongos and that he oughtta show me a thing or two. Musicians and music lovers were coming out of the woodwork, and even those who were simply there to listen, stopped to join in the music and the conversation. I asked them the question I had pondered earlier this morning in Herald Square and we concluded that music can give us pause because it speaks to something that is common among us all, our spirit and our heart. For a few minutes, young and old, black and white, tourists and native New Yorkers stopped labeling each other for moment and seemed to say, “I see you and accept you exactly as you are…and all that I want from you in this moment is for you to be open and share in an honest experience. In yoga they call this “namaste” or “I honor the God that is in you!” And I can’t possibly think of a better way to explain my hour with all of the people at the painted piano on Pier one than to say “namaste.”