#MINIPiano block party surprises Pelham Bay residents

Members of the Harambee Dance Company with Sing For Hope’s #MINIPiano pianist, Aaron Rimbui (c), and Frank Malloy IV (2nd from r).
Photo by Odette Scofield

The rumblings of #6 IRT trains were drowned out by an unexpected musical cacophony one June evening.

On Thursday, June 14, the sound of drums, singing and a piano permeated Mulford Avenue.

Residents peered outside their homes and eventually gathered on the sidewalk outside 1629 Mulford Avenue to find its source.

What they saw before them was an impromptu ensemble of drummers surrounding a piano set up in the back of a mini van.

“We heard the music and decided to go outside and listen instead of watching television,” said Mary Vlahos, who watched from her home a few feet away from the performance.

“We just wanted to see what was going on and we loved it,” said Berem Singh, who was also watching from his front porch with his family a few houses away.

The organization behind the musical surprise party, Sing For Hope, is popular for placing ornately decorated pianos in public spaces for public use citywide.

Some of their pianos can be found at the Bartow-Pell Mansion, Virginia Park, and Joyce Kilmer Park.

The organization’s main goal is to promote the arts as a means of community and youth engagement and education.

Sing For Hope only has 50 stationary pianos a year, but the organization wanted to do something different to expand their musical reach.

So they teamed up with MINI to outfit one of their cars with a 51st piano, dubbed the #MINIPiano, to make the project mobile.

With their new mobile piano, Sing For Hope had the opportunity to bring more music and art to some of the furthest reaches of the city.

Finding a location to park was the group’s first challenge.

It just so happened that the family of one of Sing For Hope’s members, Frank Malloy IV, lived in Pelham Bay.

When Frank and his family agreed to the idea, Sing For Hope parked the car in his family’s driveway and carried out a few hours of musical entertainment in partnership with the musical styles of the Malloy family, who run the Harambee Dance Company.

“People think there’s no art in the Bronx, but there’s actually a lot,” said Malloy of the project and having different art forms in the borough. “You just have to be open to finding it.”

As the piano player set the tune accompanied by the drums, the Harambee dancers took center sidewalk, as more neighbors gathered closer and closer to dance along with the music.

“If we had stuff like this all summer, it would be a lot of fun,” said 12-year-old Calista Rodriguez, who walked down the block from her home with her family to join in on the celebration.

All of Sing For Hope’s Pianos, including their #MiniPiano, are only on display until the Sunday, June 24th.

At the end of the piano project, all the current stationary pianos will be donated to local schools. New ones will then be designed by various artists and be prepared for the following summer, according to Sing For Hope’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Robertson.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.
Frank Malloy III, co-founder of the Harambee Dance Company plays a drum during the performance.
Photo by Odette Scofield

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