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How to Push Your Piano Through NYC: An Experiment

This post is an ongoing experiment that might never end. I have been tinkering with methods and Ideas for moving my 500 pound upright piano for about a year. Below you will see the process and steps for how I ended up at my current method. Pushing a Piano throughout New York City is not easy. In fact it is one of the most physically challenging tasks I have ever attempted. Moving pianos is incredibly dangerous: Read the story of how a Piano Crushed My hand. You should not attempt doing this by yourself or you will end up like me– with a broken hand. There is a good reason why you should hire piano movers to move your piano.

But nonetheless, I will show you what I have discovered in the last 2 years of moving pianos by myself.

Method #1

POS Dolly (Piece of shit Dolly) and 1 strap

You can get these for $20 at any Home Depot. I call them a piece of shit dolly because they are not made well and you should not use these to move your piano. Period. The wheels arent even rubber which leads to a very bumpy ride.

Method #2

Two POS Dolly and 2 straps

Maybe we can take 2 piece of shit Dollies and it would be better. It was better for a few months, but then they kept breaking.

This method was shown to me by Colin Huggins who now plays his Baby Grand Piano in Washington Square park. (I’m sure he uses better dollies than this though)

Method #3

Build your own wood dolly with large wheels

My father saw this as a good opportunity to get involved and help me out. He likes little building projects like this. He decided to get some wood and build his own dolly. Unfortunately, the width was too small with this one which made it too wobbly and dangerous. On top of that it was really heavy because it was one large piece of wood. I used it once or twice but it felt as if I was using double the energy to move the piano.

Method #4

Build a dolly using a Hand truck and POS Dollies.

This was my fathers idea. I immediately turned it down because the hand truck had these arms that kept sticking out. But nevertheless, my father took some wood and screwed them in place, and then put the piano on top just to see how it would work. I’m too scared to take risks like this. I really dont want another piano falling on me.

Method #5

Build a Piano Bicycle.

The photo below is of Eric Rich and  Corbon Baldwin who built their own piano bicycle system to haul their 800 pound bicycle to and from the farmers market.

After doing some research I realized that it would cost me around $2500 to lease or build my own piano bicycle. On top of all that I would need to pay for a garage to store it overnight. I spoke with a Rickshaw company, a bicycle building company, and a metal welder about building this bicycle before deciding to throw out the idea and go back to the drawing board…

I thought the bike below would be really cool to have. It can haul up to 600 pounds. Or so they say it can.

Method #6

Buy a food cart and take off the box. I came up with this idea when I went over to Worksman Cycles in Queens. They showed me this food cart which was 400 pounds. It moved so well that I instantly started getting ideas. I then spoke to the owner of the company who gave me some interesting options. Which led me to the next idea…

Method #7

The All Terrain Dolly by Premier Moving Equipment

After talking to a welder about building a cart like the one above I discovered that it would still cost me more than $500 to build it.

As I continued my experimentation and research, I discovered this: The All terrain Dolly made by Premier Moving Equipment (A family owned business in Atlanta). I called up the company and spoke to George Patrick who designed the dolly. He told me the story of how he conceived of the idea. He came up with the All terrain Dolly when he had to move a large grand piano across the grass. He put two hand trucks together, secured them, and it worked but with alot of struggle. He then decided to make his own design and build one himself. Below is the All Terrain Dolly from Premier Moving Equipment.

After speaking with George we came up with an idea to build a custom dolly that would be stable and easy enough to push throughout the pothole ridden streets of New York City. Below are some photos of their process.

Check out their web site:

www.premiermovingequipment.com

I’m not getting paid to write this. Premiere Moving Equipment has helped me make my dream come alive and I’m grateful for their creative minds and hard work. Thank you!

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The Making of Piano Across America

Theres the short story, and then theres the long story. Here is the Longer Version. I truly believe that the people, places, and experiences from the last 10 years of my life have led me to discover Piano Across America.

More specifically, it is the events that took place after I graduated college that motivated me to do something extraordinary with my life.

I Graduated college in May 2008 and went to my parents house in Long Island, New York to start auditioning for jobs and build my acting career. Over the course of the year I researched the acting world in NYC, did a few non-union shows, auditioned almost every day, and interned for casting directors and agents while working different jobs and selling stuff on eBay. I even started day trading for a little while in 2009 when the Stock Market hit an all time Low.

I tried so many different things that seemed to get me no where.

I didn’t feel like my career was progressing.

Being an Actor in New York City is very hard. There are hundred of people competing for the same roles as you. On top of that, it's exhausting to have to constantly look for a job. Even when you have a job, its always temporary, leaving you to have to look for another one almost immediately.

In June 2009 I was so frustrated with auditioning that I decided to stop.

I didnt like the fact I was wasting full days waiting on line for a 30 second interview.

I didnt think auditioning was the best way of making a career as a performer and sought a way to create my own opportunities.

I found myself on line at the Actors Equity building for an audition sitting next to a 40 year old man who had some nice looking credits on his resume. But it made me realize that I could do this for 20 years and still be in the same place!

I didnt want to be like that. I began practicing piano routinely and took lessons in hopes of using my music to create a one man show. But what would I be doing in the show?

Like every 20 year old I was brimming with  ideas, but couldn’t find a single one that I wanted to focus on.

I was spreading myself too thin juggling all these ideas forcing me to have to let go of some.

I was conflicted between my desire to make money and wanting to pursue my love of being a performing artist.

This is when the big spark happened.

 

In December 2009, I got an offer from my fathers friend (a photographer) to drive his box truck to Miami for a delivery. He paid for all the expenses including a check for my time.

I thought it was so cool to get paid to Travel.

I saw it as an experiment to travel alone in a truck, filming my experiences, and to explore blogging. When I got to Miami, I got a call from a friend who was in Dominican Republic. He convinced me to come down and I immediately flew down to DR and drove motorcycles through the mountains. It was an experience of a lifetime. I got back to Miami and was paid again to drive back to New York. It was a dream come true!

This was where I became addicted to travel. I became addicted to the new experiences, the new people I was meeting, and spontaneous adventure.

 

February 2010, I wasn’t auditioning anymore and my acting career took a stand still to work for this photographer as his assistant and truck driver. This was the time Brando entered into my life. It wasnt planned, it just sort of happened. Click here to read the story of my dog, Brando.

May 2010 rolled in and I was still working for the photographer, but I was unhappy again. I was frustrated that I was living someone else’s dream rather than working towards my own dream. I started a blog on tumblr called, ThePiano.tumblr.com where I wanted to create a place for pianists and piano lovers to come together.

Every day I would go to work and ask myself the question: "If I could do anything else in the world, what would I do?" I spent a lot of time dreaming and thinking and brainstorming.

Finally, I came up with the idea for Piano Across America by combining everything that I love to do in life: Traveling, Making music and performing, and meeting People. 

The idea was to travel the world with an upright piano and be entirely supported through playing piano. Nothing else.

The only thing was, I wasn't a very good piano player.

June 2010 came and “Play Me, I’m Yours” set their 60 piano’s throughout the 5 boroughs. This was a test for me to play a piano in front of people on the streets. I played about 14 of the pianos in Manhattan, filmed my experiences, and I noticed that it was incredibly easy to meet people and other musicians.

There was a huge social aspect of playing the piano on the streets. It was as if it instantly opens you up to conversation and breaks down all the boundaries.

THIS WAS THE TIPPING POINT. This was the moment where I said to myself, Enough is Enough! I MUST make my dream come true.

But was I ready?

I had only been playing for 4 years. I never played in front of an audience before, nor had I the confidence to do so. There was plenty of self doubt and obstacles but in July 2010 I worked past it and with my fathers help, I strapped my piano to two dollies, wheeled it onto Broadway in downtown New York, and played in front of a deli.

I felt the energy of people’s faces looking at me, pointing fingers, and the feeling of having the spot light on me. I mean, I was pushing a piano across the street!

At first it was embarassing, but after a few hours I began to really enjoy the feeling. I wasnt sure if I could meet the demands of the people with my skills and really blow them away.

I did this a few more times and started noticing patterns, learning from my mistakes, and making changes.

In August 2010, I continued my new found adventure and played on the streets 10 more times. I met a man from England who showed me a few things on the piano. We jammed on Broadway and had an amazing time when this other man came up to us and started rapping.

In City Hall Park, I met this French documentary director who was enamored by my attempt at playing on the streets. I was able to connect with people instantly when I had the piano and I even scheduled my first gig playing at a gallery event.

I was enthralled with meeting new people from all over the world and hearing other people’s stories and comments.

Unfortunately, a terrible incident occurred on September 10, 2010 when I hit a pothole that made the piano fall backwards. I went to stop it but the piano was too heavy and landed on my hand. I broke two fingers and it really put a stop on my goals and dreams.

I was torn up with the thought of never being able to play piano again. I couldnt play for 3 months and spent that time dreaming again of playing on the streets.

Luckily, I didn’t damage any ligaments or joints which led to very positive outcome in the healing process.

This was the point where I started planning for my tour across America.

The shock of almost losing the ability to play piano forever pushed me forward to make the dream of traveling across America with my piano happen.

Looking back at all these events, I find it interesting that they all occurred consecutively.

Its as if someone knew about my dream beforehand and put those obstacles and events in my path: As if it were meant to be.

Life works in mysterious ways and I cannot explain it.

But I do believe if you spend enough time crafting your ideal, eventually it will happen.

Anything is possible!

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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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Dance Party on the Streets of Albuquerque, NM

The Day was May 30, 2011… It was a Saturday night and I wanted to play some piano on the streets of Albuquerque. Unfortunately, the bars across the street were happily blasting obnoxious Hip-hop music which would have completely drowned out my elegant piano. So I decided to try something different and bring out some buckets, pots, and pans. I’m not much of a drummer but I got rhythm and I can keep a beat. Why not…

i played for about an hour into the wee hours of the morning and by 2 AM all the bars closed. There was a gay bar on the corner and these girls dressed up in skimpy dresses were coming out and digging my music. Then it got interesting… DANCE PARTY ON THE STREETS!

Watch what happens at 1:35

 

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Jason in Salt Lake City, Utah – August 4, 2011

I met Jason on State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah and I was incredibly touched by his passion. Jason is a humble man of only 19 who had recently gotten into a major struggle with his parents. I spoke to him and was able to give him a few words of advice.

IF EVERY MUSICIAN PLAYED WITH THIS MUCH PASSION, THE WORLD WOULD BE A DIFFERENT PLACE.

What do you think?

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How I Traveled Across America with $2.82

After driving more than 9,300 miles in 3 1/2 months, I reached Seattle from New York City. The problem was… I spent all my money. I had 2 choices. I could start a new Kickstarter page and raise some money to get home or i can take a little risk: make some money in Seattle, fill up my tank and head East with hopes of making the money along the way. Sometimes you just have to take the hard way… The next day I unloaded my piano (and my dog) onto the streets of Seattle at Pike Place Market and played for 5 hours. Luckily, it was a sunny filled day and the tourists were flowing. I made a whopping $190! This was enough to take me all the way to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho which was 320 miles away.

I spent that night sleeping in my truck (which I built to be very comfortable and safe) The trick to sleeping in your car is finding the right place to park— Especially in a busy city. One of the tricks I developed throughout my travels was to park my truck in a crowded Hotel parking lot, that way you fit in with the rest of the group without any problems. In fact, during the 1 1/2 months of traveling back home, I spent most of my nights sleeping in the truck. The one downside was finding a place to shower, but I’ll get into the strategies I created later.

Once I got to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho I spent most of my money and had to jump back on the streets to get me to the next location (Glacier National Park). But I never felt pressure, I just went with the flow of life and understood that with plenty of confidence, I can do this. I figured out a routine to get myself from city to city, doing what i loved, meeting plenty of people, and traveling across America.

The important thing was to manage my spending carefully. My main expenses were gas and food. I lived very Simple and didnt need to spend money on unnecessary things. This is HUGE! Living on the road made me understand how many unnecessary objects we have in our lives and that living a simple life without so many possessions kept me more organized and free. In fact, in the beginning of my roadtrip I brought way too many things with me and ended up giving away half of what I brought.

On top of all that, living the life of a frugal traveler, I still got to do all the fun and adventurous activities. In fact, I had so much freedom with my time, every day was filled with excitement. The challenge of traveling without any money and the fact that I was funding my trip by doing what I loved (Playing piano on the streets of America) made the journey that much more adventurous.

But dont get me wrong: Playing piano on the streets is NOT easy and still takes hard work, especially when you’re playing for more than 4 hours at a time. Even so, it was my dream life: Traveling, Making enough money, and doing what I love. Here is a list of all things I got to do starting with $2.82 in my bank account.

  • I visited and played piano in 4 National Parks
  • I Experienced the nightlife in each major city
  • I went sightseeing and even rented a bicycle to go mountain biking in Moab, UT.
  • I was able to make enough money by playing piano in every city to get me to the next location.
  • I never felt any pressure to keep moving and took my time.
  • In the end, I never turned a profit, but managed to do everything I love while still breaking even!

 

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5 Most Beautiful Roads in America

One rule I learned while traveling across America is to rarely take major highways. I always try to stick to the back-roads which are usually empty with the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see. Trust me on this one…

1. Independence Pass in Colorado

You’ll drive through dense forests of Aspen trees that stare back at you. The elevation reaches above 12,000 feet on this road, being one of the tallest roads in America. You will zig-zag around dangerous curves and stumble upon a wide open scenic view of lakes and streams. It almost feels like you’re flying in a plane. I would recommend driving through here in the summer because it can get really cold in the winter. SEE MORE PHOTOS

View A Map of this Road

2. Going to the Sun Road in Montana

When we climbed up the steep mountain road and saw the view. This road overlooks the 1,000,000 acres of Glacier National park and some of the most beautiful mountains you will ever see in America. There are even some surprises along the way as you drive along this 50 mile road. The spectacular views from high up in the mountains give you an in depth look into the story of how those massive Glaciers traveled north. This is a must see! –> MORE PHOTOS <–

View A Map of this Road

3. Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway in Utah

In order to drive through this road your vehicle will have to be measured so you can pass through the tunnel. And once you come out, you will be in awe of the mammoth rock walls looking down upon you like little ants. Why this is so amazing is because its as if they built a road in a place where a road could never be imagined. It reminded me a bit of Independence pass but with beautiful red and orange sandstone instead of forests. SEE MORE PHOTOS

View A Map of this Road

4. State Route 14 in New Mexico

This road is one of my biggest secrets. I’m sure you wont find many people talking about this place. It takes a certain level of appreciation to enjoy this place. Dont expect to see mountains and lush forests. This road goes through a beautiful expansive desert in New Mexico unlike anything I have ever seen. I loved this road so much because I’ve never experienced such pure isolation and silence. I didnt see a single human being for 4 hours. Born in New York City, you can see why I am so attracted to this.

On top of all that, it passed through a very small desert town of about 65 people named Claunch. I remember standing in the middle of the street, honking my horn just to meet a single human being, but no one responded.

See the story of Claunch for more photos

View a Map of this Road

5. Pacific Coast Highway in California

Its always a sunny day out. It just depends on which side of the clouds you’re on. I’ll never forget the feeling of driving slowly along this cliff overlooking the rocky beaches of Northern California. One moment you’re driving above the clouds and the next you’re descending below again. Plenty of sharp turns that will take you to some expansive views of the colorful coastline. You will also pass the famous Big Sur where you can take a hike to some secluded beaches with interesting geology. SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE

View A Map of this Road

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Welcome to Piano Across America!

Watch this trailer to see some of the Amazing events that occurred while traveling Across America with my Upright Piano.

Watch this trailer to see some of the Amazing events that occurred while traveling Across America with my Upright Piano.

  • Visited More than 60 Cities
  • Played on the streets of 36 Cities
  • 8 National Parks (Including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Redwoods)
  • More than 25,000 Miles
  • 5 months of Travel
  • More than 10,000 people inspired!

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We send out an email every 2 weeks that includes new photos, stories, and update of what is to come next with Piano Across America. Thanks for Reading!

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