Pianoing Across the World
Dotan Negrin spent almost a year playing piano across America — on street corners, in farmer’s markets, and anywhere else that would have him — and documenting it all on his blog. Now back home in New York, Negrin is taking on a new challenge: pushing his piano (and his dog Brando), by foot, through the chaotic streets of New York City, to bring his music to busy New Yorkers and avoiding taxi collisions along the way. You can check out his progress on his Tumblr, Piano Across NYC. We asked him about his cross-country trip and what it’s like weaving a piano through New York traffic.
What does it take to push a piano uptown?
The roads are terrible. There are potholes everywhere and plenty of obstacles. I broke my fingers when my piano got stuck in a pothole and fell backwards. But the cabs are the worst, because there are times when I have to push the piano in the middle of the street so that I don’t run into any parked cars.
How many different ways have you tried to cart your piano around the city?
I’ve tried a traditional dolly, with a couple of straps. That was wobbly. I tried building my own dolly with a hand truck and two dollies (my dad’s idea). It didn’t work so great. I researched having a piano bicycle actually made for me — but it was going to cost $2,500. I thought about buying a food cart and taking off the box, but it would have required a welder. Finally, after a whole lot of research, I landed on something called the all-terrain dolly. I had one built for me out of a family-owned business in Atlanta.
Before you returned to New York, you traveled for months with just your piano and your dog. Why?
I wanted to combine everything I loved to do: travel, make music, meet people. I figured I would get a lot better if I relied on the piano to eat and to pay for gas. I did.
Where was the most interesting place you visited?
I played on the edge of a cliff in Yellowstone. I played on the edge of the Grand Canyon. In Portland, Oregon, a guy came up to me and pounded on my keys because I was taking the attention away from him; he was playing guitar on the other side of the farmer’s market. But I think the craziest place I played was inside a redwood tree.
Any particular characters you met along the way?/
Cuba Gooding, Jr. came up to me and dropped a $20 in my bucket with a huge grin on his face. I also met Kevin Jonas. He tweeted a photo of me. This one time, a woman came up to me, dropped a $5 bill in the bucket and said, “This $5 is for Brando, not you.” I tried to give it to Brando but he wouldn’t take it. I gave him a few dog treats instead.