Family

Some of these pianos are decorated with paint, some with grass. Find them in the park and go nuts.

When I lived in New York, it took a lot to phase me. Between dancers breaking into routines on the subway and poets spontaneously performing on the streets, bold public art was the norm.

Some of these pianos are decorated with paint, some with grass. Find them in the park and go nuts.

But one day I noticed something that actually gave me pause.

It was one of those warm and cuddly "Awww … now THIS is why I love New York moments." As I found myself walking through different boroughs of the city, I'd see brightly colored pianos in parks and other — what I thought were random — outdoor spaces. It turns out that these musical instruments have been sprinkled throughout the communities since 2006.


Image of Sing for Hope piano by CBSNews.com.

Sing for Hope is the organization that's responsible for this mysterious piano trail. The nonprofit, powered by volunteer artists, seeks to make art and music accessible to all.

Their piano project, which was highlighted by Nick Dietz in a story for CBSNews.com, was started by Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora. They also happen to be BFFs and successful sopranos themselves.

Here's how the magical initiative works.

Generous people and organizations from all over New York donate pianos. Once the instruments are inspected and approved to withstand the fun journey ahead, a team of artists brings the pianos to life. They deck them out with colors, inspiring messages, and eye-catching designs. No two pianos are the same.

The precious instruments are then placed in outdoor spaces throughout the five boroughs of New York. There are no instructions or special guests of honor. Their simple placement is invitation enough for folks in the community to experiment and play.

This guy was inspired during the Sing for Hope public installation. Image by CBSNews.com.

The best part about this program is that people who may not have access to a piano or be able to afford to hear live music can do so during the 16-day public installation period.

In a telephone interview with Rachel Benichak, a representative for Sing for Hope, she explained:

"Communities really rally around these. These are beautiful pieces created by artists that took hundreds of hours to make and are then placed outside. We've seen friendships formed, proposals — impromptu happenings. Normal people interact with the pianos and it makes their communities better. It's a really fun project."

But the fun doesn't stop there.

After each summer exhibit, the pianos are shipped to their next destination — schools, hospitals, and community organizations.

Teachers at P94M, The SPECTRUM School, in Manhattan's East Village, were ecstatic when they were gifted a Sing for Hope piano in 2013. Music exploration is helping their students develop their voices.

"We work with children with emotional disturbance, children with autism, children with intellectual disabilities. This provides a very therapeutic space for them," says Tessa Defner, an arts coach.

After the pianos are delivered to the various community organizations, Sing for Hope supplies each location with artists who give piano lessons and classes on interpreting the instrument's design.

A child at P94M using a Sing for Hope piano. Image by CBSNews.com.

It's a win-win for students, artists, and the community at large. To learn more about this inspiring effort, check out the video below.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

Keep Reading Show less

Our collective childhoods have been forever influenced by the imaginative, heartwarming stories of Roald Dahl. Classics like Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and Fantastic Mr. Fox continue to grace bookshelves, movie screens, and even the stages of Broadway.

But today, on what would have been Dahl's 104th birthday, we're going to share one of his lesser known- yet arguably most provocative-works of literature.


Keep Reading Show less