June 8, 2018

The Sounds of Summer

The Sounds of Summer

If you’ve got kids or grandkids, you’ve probably noticed that when they get within 20 feet of a piano, they can’t resist banging on all of those keys. Tracy and I know it’s just a matter of time with our children – usually seconds, (other than piano lessons, of course, which make them hightail it the other way). The temptation is just too strong.

The folks who started a nonprofit called Sing for Hope are making the most of this. They’re bringing 51 pianos to parks all over New York City this summer for the public to use. What a great way to bring people together around music – and give kids exposure to musical instruments.

Here in New York, we’re very lucky to be surrounded by wall-to-wall cultural institutions — Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Juilliard School, you name it. It’s also a live music paradise. If you love jazz or blues, you can go out any night of the week and hear great musicians at legendary clubs, like The Iridium and in places like Union Square, Madison Square Park and many a street corner.

Even with all of this music around us, many children in the city don’t get much chance to explore music. Sing for Hope says one-third of children in New York City don’t have access to music education at school at all.

That’s a shame because early exposure to music is great for kids’ brain development. It helps them with learning language and mathematics, fine motor coordination, and attention – there’s a long list of good things that come with it. Tracy and I have found that like sports, learning an instrument can help kids build discipline, too – even when we have to remind them to practice. In addition to the aforementioned piano lessons, Lily had the experience of being able to play the recorder in concert with her class at none other than legendary Carnegie Hall. Here at Marcum, when we interview summer interns, we always see it as a good sign if they’ve been serious about learning an instrument because it shows me they stick with things.

And music can be a great career in itself, for people who find out they have talent. Think of all of the famous performers who are from the New York area or started their career here – Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, John Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, KISS, Jennifer Lopez, Cindi Lauper, The Ramones, and Lou Reed, to name just a few.

The good news is Sing for Hope is going to be moving all of the pianos in the program to New York City schools at the end of the summer. That should give more kids a chance to get a taste of what it’s like to run their fingers across a keyboard.

And there are a lot of great programs springing up around the country. The Atlanta Music Project brings tuition-free, intensive private music lessons to children who can’t afford it. And the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, which started out providing music education to immigrant children, now offers more than $2 million in financial aid every year to talented students who otherwise would not get exposure to participating in an orchestra or playing chamber music.

Here in New York, I haven’t bumped into one of New York City’s park pianos yet, but I’m going to be on the lookout this summer. Who knows? There could be a future Mozart or Beethoven at the keyboard. With all the time kids spend on their computer keyboards these days, my guess is it’ll be easy for many of them to make the leap.