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Piano Across NYC

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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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Location #5- Mulberry Street (Little Italy)

  I've never played at this spot before and when I saw the little street fair, I knew I had to bring the keys and play. On Memorial day, May 28th, I took my mini white piano over with Brando. It was a blazing hot day and by the time I walked the 5 blocks I was drenched in sweat. I set up my piano on Mulberry and Spring on the corner of this little Italian Market. The Streets were lightly filled with tourists browsing.

I played for about an hour before a Security guard for the Little Italy Street Fair came over and told me to leave. He said that the vendors were complaining that I was taking away the attention from them. I told the security that I was legally allowed to play there and that I will set up on the other side of the street.

I set up on the other side and we started getting even bigger crowds. 30 minutes into my second set 2 more security guards came over and told me that they were complaining and that I must leave. I didnt want to give them a hard time so I packed up and headed East to Chinatown..

map of little italy

piano dog in nyc piano man

piano man in little italy nyc piano dog

traveling piano man dog nyc little italy

traveling piano man little italy dog

dog and traveling piano man little italy dog

These are the Security Guards telling me to leave Little Italy because the Vendors were complaining...piano dog little italy nyc traveling piano mobile piano

dotan negrin traveling piano mobile piano man

 

traveling dog and piano man mobile piano nyc little italy

Read Location #6- Chinatown

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NYC Location #2: The Meatpacking District

May 12-20, 2012

I did the Meatpacking District over the course of the two beautiful weekends in May 2012. The sun was out and so were all the beautiful people strolling through the trendy Meatpacking District.

On May 19, I decided to hit up the High Line Park again but when we got there, the Park Police werent to happy with me. They told me that I had 2 choices, Either leave or play and get a $250 summons. But he wasnt specific. He told me I could play as long as I didn't attract more than 25 people. Its a very silly rule and I decided to leave. But as I left I took some photos and played a short song. What really made no sense was the fact that the week before I played my piano for 2 hours and no one gave me a problem. Check out Location #1: The High Line Park.

Highline piano man mpd piano

highline piano man the high line park piano man mpd

I decided to stroll around the Meat Packing and stop at all the restaurants with outdoor seating. I passed by the Standard Hotel which was packed with people eating and drinking their Brunch cocktails. It was a little loud so after a few songs I continued down Washington St and went to play piano in front of Pastis.

pastis piano mpd meatpacking district piano man

I played for a half an hour and continued to the restaurant next door, Serafina which was much better because it was a smaller, more intimate space. People were coming up to me and the restaurant people were welcoming.

serafina piano man cocktail piano meat packing mpd

This led me to explore the restaurants hidden on Gansevoort Street. I played in front of the restaurants: The Double Seven and MPD and even met the manager who told me to come back later and play for the dinner crowd.

Whats funny was that I basically became a "cocktail hour" pianist and the people who were eating dinner came out to drop a few dollars in my bucket. It was all a great time and I had some good but brief conversations.

playing piano at the highline meat packing district mpd piano

highline mpd piano man meat packing

highline meatpacking district piano man piano mpd

The best moment came when I played under the High Line Park at the end of Gansevoort and Washington Ave. The Acoustics were wonderful because the sound was able to bound off the bottom of the Highline. People were crowding and taking photos. I actually got a ton of tweets at this spot. Below is a map of all the locations I played at in the Meatpacking District.

tweets mpd piano man

meatpacking district map of locations piano man

Stay tuned for Videos!

 

 

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Location #6- Bowery and Grand St. (Chinatown)

After playing in Little Italy and getting booted from my corner spot, I went towards Chinatown. I never played in Chinatown and figured, why not. In fact on that beautiful Memorial day, there were more people passing through this intersection than anywhere else in the area. I was a bit confused about where to go. The city was practically empty because of Memorial Day and it was really hot so we needed to be in the shade. I just went walking and found a great corner on Bowery and Grand to play at. As I was walking I met these 2 Mexican guys who I spoke some Spanish with and they really liked Brando.

The people were really nice. Many of the Chinese folk would come by and walk my hands in action. There was even a guy named Dr. Jerry who came up to me with a $20 bill. He was so excited about my project and about giving to others that he took my card and told me he would call me to possibly collaborate on a music project he was doing.

 

 

 

Dog on a piano in Chinatown NYC traveling pianist

 

 

 

 

 

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Location #7- Hudson St and Jane St (West Village)

The West Village is most certainly one of my favorite places in the city. It has that old time neighborhood feel with the low Brownstones but its still centrally located in the busiest city in the world. The West Village is like the complete opposite of the Upper East Side. There are no Skyscrapers, only small houses and it really makes you feel like you're in another city. I love the history that this part of the city has and I like the small side streets that are much quieter than the rest of the city. This location was something in the spur of the moment. I was looking for a place to play and decided to just walk with the piano to this corner on Hudson street. They were having some kind of Block sale on Jane Street, so I stopped at the corner and played for an hour. The crowd was very receptive and

I wasnt there for too long and I didnt stop to take many photos. I found one really nice photo that someone posted on Twitter...

I dont think I would ever play at this spot again simply because there is not enough pedestrian traffic. I need an audience. But I'm still in love with the charm of this family oriented neighborhood.

Oh yeah... There were plenty of dogs involved at this location.

map of the west village nyc piano man

 

corner of hudson and jane street

 

playing piano in the west village piano man mobile

 

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NYC Location #1: The High Line Park in MPD

I am officially the first person to bring a piano onto The Highline Park!

...And it was an extraordinary time. The elevated park was packed with people from all over the world. I was pretty nervous because I've never played on the park but I knew the exact spot to play. Someone told me to be careful because they would kick me off immediately, but that wasnt the case. There is a large area with an Overhang and I knew that the sound would echo throughout if I played there. So I packed up my piano and found the elevator on 16th Street.

The Highline is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Read more at the High Line Web site.

Afterwards, the Italians followed me over to the center of the Meat Packing District where I played piano with Brando in front of the restaurants: Serafina and Pastis.

Day: Sunday, May 13, 2012 - 1:00 PM-5:00 PM

Distance: 1.2 Miles round trip

map of mpd meat packing district

 

playing piano on the high linepiano on the high line piano nycdotan negrin high line mpd piano

 

mpd piano pastis serafina restaurant piano

 

piano across nyc mpd high line piano

meeting a family in the mpd restaurant

 

mpd meat packing piano high line

 

brando on a piano mpd

 

brando piano mpd high line

 

dog on a piano mpd

 

People I met:

  • I was being followed by 2 News media guys from Italy named Matteo and Francesco. They were filming me for a new show in Italy.
  • I met Dave Brubeck's Grand-daughter who I spoke to for a little while. She requested the song: Take 5 and I played it for her.
  • I met a woman from Brazil while I was playing "Girl from Ipanema" and she told me that I have to come down to Brazil with the piano. She said that the people there are very appreciative of music and dont worry about time. Very free mentality of life.
  • I met an entire family who was eating dinner in the meatpacking district. One of them is a publisher for the Jewish Voice in NYC. He told me to send him a press release.
  • I passed by Malcolm Gladwell in the MPD. I told him I'm putting in my 10,000 hours.

Stay tuned for more videos and action shots!

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Location #8- Alice Tully Hall (Upper West Side)

Alice Tully Hall is a concert hall located at Broadway and 65th st and is run by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. It is located right next to the Juilliard Building. I've played here once before in the brisk weather of January when it was 55 degrees. I like this spot because there is a large overhang which lends itself to some really great acoustics. The sound echos off the walls and people can hear me from blocks away. Sometimes, though, the sounds of the buses passing by can be really loud.

mini white piano. traveling piano at lincoln center

people magazine instagram a photo of us

People Magazine Instagrammed a photo of me

thank you for being the hope and inspiration I needed

This is a note that somsone threw in my bucket.

playing piano at a street fair lincoln center broadway

There was a street fair on the same block one day and I decided to wheel over there and play.

dog hanging from the edge

dog on a piano traveling piano man

 

Crazy woman eating ice cream next to my piano

Found this one on Instagram.

 

 

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Location #9- Lincoln Center

I rolled my little White Antique piano over to Lincoln Center using the elevators located on 65th street. I love Lincoln center property because of the sense of solitude it brings. The way it was designed and built really gives a calming feeling to a central location in the fast paced Manhattan island. There were about 20 people scattered about near the Vivian Beaumont theater. I rolled by the large manmade pond and past the seating area to a spot where I could bound the sound of my music off the wall. I decided to play a slow, legato piece and it was much easier to connect with the music without the sound of buses and trucks driving by. After a song and the applause of the people listening, one of the security guards came up to me and told me that I had to leave. I didnt argue, but I hope to come back to that location with a permit and play for a few hours.

Brando on the piano dog on a piano

 

street performing pianist lincoln center

 

traveling pianist at lincoln center traveling busking pianist

 

playing piano at lincoln center traveling piano

 

street piano at lincoln center traveling pianist

 

traveling pianist piano at lincoln center

 

playing piano at lincoln center traveling pianist

 

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Location #3- Union Square

Union Square is one of my favorite spots in NYC. When I came back from my tour across America, I came to Union Square and played there for a few months. I met the people of the Greenmarket Farmers Market, the Superintendent, I even met all the Park Police (we had many conversations). Now, every time I come to Union Square, I see people I have seen before. There was one time I came out without Brando and I had about 17 people come up to me and ask me, "Where's the dog?" Brando steals the show every time!

Below are some of the fun times I had in Union Square.

dog on a piano dog nyc union square

 

piano man in union square dog pianodog

 

famous black and white shot piano man

I love this great Black and White shot, It really tells a story.

A Jewish Piano Celebration in Union Square

piano man and djembe player union square nyc piano dog

Playing piano with my friend Ed in Union Square

dog costume dog sweater dog piano dog nyc union square

 

dog on a piano mobile piano man

 

piano man union square nyc pianist drummer musician street performer

Playing in Union Square in January 2012

4 Hands 1 Piano

One day while I was playing piano in Union Square, One of my friends named Steve Kaplan, passed by. I asked him if he wants to play some piano with me and we ended up jamming for a few hours. We did it a bunch of times after that. Here is a video of us jamming in Union Square.

dotan negrin street performer musicians busker

 

andy warhol statue street performers street musicians buskers nyc union square

Playing with my friend Ernie

union square map busking street performing

Above are some of the locations I played at in Union Square

Fur Elise Variations

This is a great video that was taken by a man who spotted me. I know it was around Halloween time because that hat I'm wearing was part of my costume that week.

 

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Location #4- West Broadway and Spring (SoHo)

This is another one of my frequent spots because its so close to where I keep my piano. West Broadway has always been one of my favorite places to walk at night because its really quiet and I love looking at all the storefronts. Being surrounded by the beautiful Warehouse architecture from the late 19th century is also a huge plus for me. The buildings are low and create a great atmosphere. During the day this street is Fashionista avenue with all the trendy clothing stores, galleries, and restaurants. On the weekends all the artists come out and display their work for people to purchase. Its really a great sight and is a fun place to take a stroll through on the weekend. On top of all that, this is where all the beautiful people hang out.

One day while playing in this area a woman comes up to me and asks me if I am free to play at her daughters communion reception. I accepted and got my first paid gig that way. It was a great time.

 

soho piano man mobile street performer

 

soho street performer west broadway busker street pianist piano nyc street

kevin jonas tweet nyc soho piano man street performer dotan negrin

Kevin Jonas Instagramed a photo of me.

soho piano man mobile piano mini piano white piano nyc street performer

 

dog on a piano in soho nyc piano street performer

 

dog on a piano in soho

 

piano man in soho white mini upright piano mobile piano street performer busking

 

street performer soho piano man mobile piano dog on a piano

 

 

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Location #8- Alice Tully Hall (Upper West Side)

Alice Tully Hall is a concert hall located at Broadway and 65th st and is run by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. It is located right next to the Juilliard Building.

I’ve played here once before in the brisk weather of January when it was 55 degrees. I like this spot because there is a large overhang which lends itself to some really great acoustics. The sound echos off the walls and people can hear me from blocks away. Sometimes, though, the sounds of the buses passing by can be really loud.

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People Magazine Instagrammed a photo of me

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This is a note that somsone threw in my bucket.

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There was a street fair on the same block one day and I decided to wheel over there and play.

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Found this one on Instagram.

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