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The Night I Got Robbed By An Oxycontin Addict

I met this man by the name of Ehron in Albuquerque. He was very outgoing, intelligent, and great to talk to. Turns out he plays drums and a few other instruments. I immediately told him that we should jam.

I set up the piano and the bucket drums from the night before (See: Dance Party on the Streets of Albuquerque) on Central Ave and 3rd St. By 9:00 PM, Ehron came over and we started to jam. We were actually live streaming on the internet at the same time (Check it out below) and it sounded really good. I was throwing curve balls his way and he was hitting them. People were coming by and dancing, throwing money in our bucket, and really enjoying the music.

Video streaming by Ustream

By 11 PM we started to slow down and take a break. I didn’t notice that because Ehron was closer to the bucket, he was taking a little bit of money and putting it in his pocket so that by the time it came down to splitting what we made, he had counted it and said we only made $15. I’m more than positive we made more than $75 all together because a few people gave us 20’s and 10’s.

Ehron said he was going to grab a bite and come back. He never showed up. But I knew exactly where he was sleeping that night. He got kicked out of his grandmothers house and was sleeping on the roof of this vacant building.

I went over there and called him out. I was really pissed off and told him that he robbed me and thats when he admitted it to me, “I’m an addict! This is my life. What? Are you going to punch me?” I told him I wouldn’t stoop down to his level and told him that I wanted to help him get off the street and change his life, but its impossible to help an addict who has been brainwashed by drugs.

Turns out he took the money and bought Oxycontin with it. He has been living this sort of lifestyle for a few months, his family pushed him away, and he was living on the streets. If I met Ehron again, I wouldn’t be angry. I wouldn’t get revenge. I would ask him to travel and play drums with me.

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The Day I Celebrated My Birthday With 6 Random Strangers

It was August 19th and I was in Boulder, Colorado. I fell in love with Boulder and didnt want to leave. At the same time I was a bit homesick and my birthday was coming up in 3 days. The next major town was Madison, Wisconsin which is a 1000 mile trek through the midwest!

The problem was, I didnt know a single person in Madison and I definitely didnt want to spend my birthday by myself. So i put a few messages up on Tumblr, Facebook, Couchsurfing and began my drive through Nebraska and Iowa.

I arrived in Madison on my birthday (August 22) and received an email from someone who read my message on Couchsurfing. He told me that him and a few of his friends wanted to meet up and take me out for my birthday.

These are people I never met in my entire life! They thought my journey was cool and wanted to meet me. At 7:00 PM, After playing on State street, I packed up my piano and went over to this restaurant to meet my new friends.

We had such an amazing time! They had all these questions for me and they were very open and interesting people. I told them some stories from my 5 months journey. We had a few drinks, ate dinner…

I went to the bathroom and when I got back they surprised me with a cake and candle! I was flabbergasted! Here I was spending my birthday with 6 random people I had just met off the internet and it was one of the greatest birthday’s I’ve ever experienced!

The Moral: The world is filled with people from all backgrounds who are open to new experiences and who want to meet other people. Never judge a book before you’ve read it.

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The Craziest Day I've Ever Had Playing Piano in NYC

  Yesterday was one of the most amazing days I've ever had playing piano...

September 27, 2012

I started off the day meeting up with some Film academy students at 11:30 AM. The three students were from Japan, Korea, and New Zealand, a great group of guys. One of them, named Sam, decided to use my story for their final project and he wanted to interview me on camera. He asked me questions like: What do you want for the future?,  Where will you go next?, and What would you say to someone who is just getting out of high school?

These questions really made me think about my goals and was a great reminder that I need to really think out my thoughts. What is difficult for me right now is that I am so flexible with where i can go next. There are infinite paths I could take and there is no "Right" path. I'm sort of taking it as it comes, living in the moment, and seeing what sticks first. Afterwards, they filmed me removing the piano from my van, pushing the piano with Brando on top, and setting up in Union square.

street piano traveling piano nyc piano street remarkable you it owe it to yourselfI played for about an hour in front of Staples on the western side of Union Square and met a guy from Greece who was saying how I should do a Roadtrip with an electric car. It's something I've wanted to do for a while but don't have the resources or people to do it. I hope to meet someone who knows how to build a car that can run on a renewable energy source so I dont have to depend on gas companies to spread happiness and fun throughout the world.

The film crew left at around 1:30 PM and we continued playing piano.

street piano man dog on a piano pianodog street traveling man piano nycThis is when things started to get crazy.

I was playing a fast tune when this Asian beat boxing free-styling guy named River (below) comes over and starts beat boxing. We jammed on a hip hop song and then out of nowhere comes this other guy with long hair who says, "Hey man you guys should record that. You guys sounds great." He tells us his name is Dregon and says he wants to collaborate with us.

As we talked, these 2 Hungarian girls come up to us. One of them plays piano really well and she threw down some great melodies and singing. We were all singing and jamming together on some Alicia Keys tune.

About 5 minutes later out pops this guy who I met a few months back in Union Square and he starts playing a little piano blues and singing.

Within an Instant there was this amazing exchange of cards and numbers. "We all have to meet sometime and make some music again". I got a bunch of cards and put them in my pocket.

It was a amazing to see how quickly everything escalated and how we all just clicked because we spoke the language of music. We created a small community around the piano with people that never met each other. More people gathered around us and we had a nice crowd.

I sat down at the piano and started to play some Latin salsa groove. From the audience, this black girl starts dancing in front of everyone. (Pictured below)

remarkable dancing salsa in union square street piano street traveling pianoI kid you not, this was like something out of a movie: 2 Seconds later this Puerto Rican guy comes out with attitude, grabs her arm, and they start doing some seriously sexy salsa moves.

The musicians next to me were clapping and banging on my piano, River was beat boxing, Everything was happening in the moment and it was beautiful!

It's moments like these that remind me how beautiful this world is, how grateful I am to be doing what I do. Its moments like these that make me feel more alive.

After the dance everyone clapped and parted ways. One girl in the audience brought her video camera out and she asked me some questions for her NYU project. We spoke about my project and my inspirations behind it all.

I moved the piano to the Northern side of Union Square across from the McDonald's but I decide to play in the center of union square rather than on the side. (this is usually not allowed by the Park Police)

street piano traveling piano man travel union square piano nycAt one point we had a crowd of at least 45 people standing around us in a circle. It was so exhilarating. I sometimes get a little nervous when there's that many people surrounding me.

I finished playing a song and this girl gives me her personalized book of journal entries and stories as a gift. And then another guy brings over a huge Bone for Brando. The happiness inside of me built up so much through the course of the day that without thinking I got up in front of the 45 people surrounding me and said something like this:

"Thank you all so much for listening to my music. You are all amazing people. The world is such an amazing place. One thing I have learned from traveling alone is that there are more good people in the world than bad. Before I left on my trip I was really scared because of all the negative things people told me. People spoke of how dangerous the world is and how its too dangerous to travel alone. But after traveling across America to more than 53 cities I can say that the world is not like that at all. There are truly more good people in this world. Travel the world. Meet your fellow Americans. You guys all should be talking to each other. Do something remarkable!

I think I cried a tear in front of everyone. I was shaking with nervousness. I've never done that before. Usually I just play and say thank you, but never have I gotten up and said something like that. It just sort of burst out of me. I could barely play the next 2 songs because I was so deep in thought.

playing piano in nyc union square piano street traveling piano remarkable dotan negrinAfter the audience dissipated, I packed up my stuff and rolled 4 blocks to my car. It was a long day. I was tired. I played 6 1/2 hours and met hundreds of people in 1 day. I was having trouble loading up my piano because the ramp was positioned too steep. This old homeless Chinese woman with bags of cans walks by and tries to help me. She didnt push but she made sure the piano didnt tip over. With all my strength I finally got the piano into the van and tried to give her a dollar but she wouldnt accept it. I thanked her and she went on her way.

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Before Piano Across America, I Tried 17 Other Ideas...

Dotan negrin street pianist piano street(The Photo above was taken in 2010 on my first solo Road trip across America. I was working as an assistant and truck driver for a Photographer. This was the first inspiration for Piano Across America.)


After college (May 2008), I had so many ideas and things that I wanted to do in my life. Graduating with a BFA in Theater, I started Auditioning for Union and Non-union gigs in New York City.

I was working various jobs at the same time. I spread myself too thin and didn’t have the time to devote to everything. Eventually I had to make sacrifices and throw out ideas.

Here are some of the things I tried after college.

  • Start a Theater company- ‘08
  • Write my own Screenplay -‘08
  • Auditioned for acting jobs all over NYC - ‘08-‘09
  • Ebay business: selling shoes and clothes - ‘08-present
  • The Creative Forum: An artists group-‘08
  • Internship at Stuart Howard Casting- ‘09
  • A Web Show about the best places to visit in NYC- ‘09
  • Day Trading in stock market -‘09
  • Create a web series about a group of 4 20-somethings in NYC -‘09
  • Create a Youtube channel and start making funny videos every week -‘09
  • The Shakespeare Forum: An actors Shakespeare group-‘09
  • Create a one man show with the piano and multiple characters-‘09
  • Internship at Avalon Artists Group Agency -‘09
  • 4 small non-Union theater works -‘08-‘10
  • Assistant for Photographer as a truck driver -‘10
  • Started DJing again to get jobs at local bars/clubs -‘10
  • Created a Blog about Piano music ‘10
  • April 4, 2011- Piano Across America

If at first you dont succeed, try and try again until you do.

I wrote this to show the importance of self exploration and pushing yourself to discover your true passion. Dont settle for mediocrity.

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The Woman Who Never Left Home

The woman who never left home This story happened in 2010, before Piano Across America, on my first Solo Roadtrip to Florida from New York. I saw the sign for South of the Border while driving south on I-95 one night and decided to check it out, as everyone does once in their lives.

I pulled into the Mexican restaurant parking lot and walked inside. The place was empty. Nothing but tables and chairs and a little white haired lady with a southern accent who told me I could sit anywhere I'd like.

I ordered the burrito, because thats what I normally get at other Mexican restaurants. And while I waited for the food to come out, I started talking to the lady about how crazy the whole place looked. It was sort of like a low budget, Mexican themed Disneyland.

My burrito came out and thats all it was, just a simple burrito. Nothing fancy. As I ate the woman asked me where I'm from and I told her I was from New York. She talked about how she saw New York City in pictures but never had the desire to go up and see it.

"Why dont you want to see New York City?" , I asked.

She said, "Too many people. I've never been out of South Carolina my entire life. Why would I want to travel around the world? Have you watched the news? People dying everywhere, killing each other left and right. I dont want nothing to do with that."

I'll never forget the phrase that came out of her mouth. I was in shock. Complete disbelief.

The world around you is all based on your perceptions.

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Frank Wott: A Musician Struggling to Live the Dream

Frank Wott musician struggling to survive Name: Frank Wott

Where: I met Frank in New Orleans while playing on Royal Street. He walked up to me and we started jamming.

Age: 27 years old

Has been a college student in New Mexico for the past 9 years because he wasnt sure what he wanted to do with his life. Eventually he fell in love with making music using his guitar and has been going to Nursing school to become a Nurse.

Franks Dream: to be a working as a nurse— assisting doctors at a hospital working a few days a week and making a steady income. At the same time to be able to make music as often as possible by himself or with a band. Having a good group of friends as well as having the free time to spend time with the people he loves is important to Frank. By Becoming a Nurse and working 3 days a week it allows Frank to have a safe balance between work and play. Although, too much play could start to become an obstacle.

What are his obstacles: Frank has spent the last few years of his life searching for what he wants to do with his life. Unfortunately, the cost of a college education is very high in America and has forced him to take out loans that have inevitable put him into debt but allowed him to pursue an good education. His debt is what’s holding him back from progressing in his dreams and life

Below is song Frank was writing when I met him in New Orleans…

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Greatest Fan Mail I've Ever Received!

Below is an email I received recently. This is moving... ------------------------------------------------

black and white piano man street performer famous photoHello, Dotan!

I am a middle school English teacher, and I follow your blog on tumblr. A couple of weeks ago, you posted a beautiful black and white photo of you on the streets of NYC, with Brando looking straight at the camera and a little girl with a doll turning back to watch you play.

I thought it was the perfect photo for a picture prompt, so I brought it in to show my sixth-grade students. I didn’t tell them anything: just asked them to write a story based on the photo. After they had written their stories, we analyzed the photo to figure out where and when it might have been taken. Then I gave them a cliff-notes version of the truth.

They thought it was very cool. We watched the Australian news story about piano across America, and I told them what you are doing now in NYC. One class thought you should come play at our school.

It was a great break from a monotony of test-preparation in English class. Thank you for sharing your story and your message. Sometimes I think a third of my students have already given up on themselves at the age of twelve. This was one more way for me to tell them that they have the ability to make their dreams a reality.

We wish you all the best, Dotan. Let us know if you’re ever in Fredericksburg, Virginia!

Take care,

Michelle mesands.tumblr.com

—————————————————————-

It's messages like these that keep me doing the things I love. This is what gives me meaning to my life.

Every day I ask myself how I can improve on this whole piano thing and I think the answer lies somewhere in going to schools and teaching people about the power of music.

Photo was taken by Vincent DiPietro in Union Square (2011)

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Conversation with the Mohawk Girl in Albuquerque, NM

I was hanging out with some random people I met near a taco place on Central Avenue. Things were bustling on the streets and people were at the bars getting drunk. Somehow we stumbled upon this girl in a leather jacket with a mohawk. She started telling us all these incredible stories, I wasnt sure whether or not to believe her. Here is a clip from the 30 minutes of stories she told us.

WARNING THIS VIDEO CONTAINS VULGAR LANGUAGE

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The Sounds of the Brazilian Pandiero with Ben McCabe

 

I was playing my piano on Broadway in NYC when this guy named Ben from England came up to met and started jamming. Another guy came up to us and started rapping, it was a wild time with 2 random strangers that I just met. After packing up the piano, we took a visit to Washington Square Park where there were tons of musicians there. This is where I asked him about the Brazilian Pandeiro.

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4 Hands 1 Piano at Pike Place Market

Heres a video that has a great story to it. I was playing piano at Pike Place market in Seattle when this young High School-er named Lucas came up to me and asked me if he could play my piano. He was pretty amazing for his age and I asked him if he wanted to play together. Here is a short clip of the 1 hour we played together.

A year later, I received an email from this young guys father. It really warmed my heart.

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The Blind Piano Tuner in Seattle

The blind piano tuner I had just arrived in Seattle (Around July 10, 2011) and I was looking for a tuner because my piano was falling way out of tune. I called up 15 people with no luck of scoring a deal. I finally did a new Google search and found a guy named “Piano Tuning by Blind Mike.” I spoke to him on the phone and told him my story. He was enthralled by my idea and offered to tune my piano for $60.00.

When I got there, I shook hands with the strange looking man, but nonetheless he was very kind and friendly. I helped him into my truck and he started tuning without any electronic gear. Just a tuning fork, hammer, and some mutes.

Curious about the mans story, I asked him how he became a piano tuner. Mike told me that when he became blind at 17 years old, his uncle told him he was going to be a piano tuner. He never told me how he became blind, but He didn’t think much of it and continued about his life. A few years later somehow, piano tuning entered his life and he has been doing it for 24 or so years.

Mike showed me some tricks on how to do some touch ups on the tuning myself. He showed me his technique and made it seem so simple. By the end, we had such an amazing conversation that Blind Mike ended up giving me the tuning for $20.00. He is such an amazing person.

Looking back at it now, that was the quickest and best tuning I have ever gotten. That tuning was so precise and it lasted for 2 months through Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons, SLC, Chicago, and all the way to New York City. The man is a genius!

I dont get paid to do this. I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart. If you are in Seattle and need a piano tuner, this is your guy. Call him: (206) 789-2632

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Brando's Friends

An Album of the many Dogs Brando Met while Traveling

This is Brando:

Cutest dog in the entire world

These are all his friends Across America:Best dog friends

Bear dog

Dog Bites Hand

 

baby Pitbull

baby Pitbull

On a beach in Northern California

Brando look alike

 

Oversized Bulldog with a Growth problem

 

Oversized Bulldog with a Growth problem

 

At the dog park

 

At the dog park

At the Dog Park in New Orleans

Dog Fight

dogs sniffing

 

Dogs peeing on dogs

At the Dog Park in New Orleans

Baby Chihuahua

 

lazy white dog

Lazy Dog in the New Orleans heat

lost dog please find him

Lost Dog in New Orleans

Big and small dog

Big Dog, Small Dog

Puppy versus Kitten

Puppy V.S. Kitten in Santa Fe, NM

Dog Encounter

 

21 year old dog!

21 Year old Dog I met in Albuquerque, NM

quirky chihuahua scared

Quirky Chihuahua I met in Washington, DC

Pirate dog

Pirate Dog I met in Athens, Georgia

lazy bulldog

Cute Young Bulldog

 

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Interview with Mr. Line Face in New Orleans

I was walking in Washington Square park, near Frenchmen Street in NOLA and I came across a group of "gutter punks" as people would call them. One of them, "Line Face" asked me to interview him. Though, it wasn't much of an interview, he kept changing the subject...What I really should have asked him is Why would you get that tattooed on your face!?!

May 11, 11:40 AM

Eventually we find out that he got the line tattooed on his face because he is a Gemini. The cops in Los Angeles called him Braveheart which he hated. Turns out his real nickname is Spin, according to all the great comments people have left on the video.

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The Barefoot Traveler: Huck

I met Huck while he was hanging with a bunch of other travelers in downtown Athens. I had some deep conversations with Huck who left home and had been traveling for a year and half. Huck believes one of the most important things in life is to be shaped through your experiences instead of living a life that is controlled by someone else's dream. He willingly chose to go on this journey which takes a lot of bravery. He plans on heading home soon in New Hampshire, but doesn't know what he will do when he gets back.

I respect Huck in some ways because I too believe that the most important thing in life is to be happy and become a well rounded person based on the experiences in my life. I dont want to work at a miserable job for the next 40 years only to retire at age 65 and then do the things I wanted to do when I was 24. That's not my American Dream. However I also believe that hard work and persistence are required to achieve something in ones life.

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People We've Met: A Photo Album

An Album of the many people We've met and Talked to all across America. met in Philadelphia

Met this man and his daughter in Philadelphia

Met this juggling man in Athens, Georgia

Jammed out at Kevins house in Atlanta, Georgia

Jamming on the streets of New Orleans

Played with this bass player in New Orleans

washington dc

Aprica sang a few tunes with me in DC.

Met a few barefoot travelers in Athens, Georgia

Jammed with this Kentucky man in Athens, Georgia

Played with a violinist and a girl who played the saw in Athens, Georgia

Met this group in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

These people were from South Dakota.

Met Steve at a Starbucks Parking lot in Washington State. He played a few tunes on his guitar and we sang together

Met this cute baby in Portland Oregon.

Jammed with this sax player in Iowa. I even met his parents too.

Met this crazy group in Des Moines, Iowa

This guy sang with me in Berkley California

berkely

This guy was insane! Met him in Berkley, CA

madison

Spoke to this homeless man with the beard. He rapped for me and told me that he was schizophrenic.

grants pass

Met these great people in Grants Pass, Oregon.

charleston

I met Brannon in Charleston, South Carolina. He's a good hearted man.

new orleans

Met this lovely old woman when she was sitting on her porch in New Orleans.

las vegas

Met these guys in Vegas.

las vegas

Crazy drunks in Vegas. This guy actually played some piano!

santa fe

Spoke with these flute players in Santa Fe.

albuquerque

This man was a traveling musician as well.

alby

Girl with the Mohawk.

albuquerque new mexico

Man who bikes around the world.

foster in new orleans

This is Foster. He was homeless. At least he looked homeless, but he had a cell phone and hooked me up with some connected when I arrived in Austin.

portland oregon

Met this humble man in Portland, Oregon during the First Thursday Festivals. The conversation you see we're having inspired me so much. And reminded me about the power of helping people.

Met Steve the Harper in Glacier National park

met couple in Aspen

Met this wonderful couple while I was in Aspen for 2 days. They really helped me out and I was so thankful that I met them.

Met people in Boulder colorado

Met this bunch in Boulder, Colorado. Great people.

 

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