Pianos creating unity in a city that desperately needs it

Pianos for Peace are spreading unity throughout the city.

Pianos for Peace None

You're in the crush of hurried travelers, stepping off a MARTA train, making your way up the escalator and down the ringing hollow of the hallway at Five Points Station. Competing with the female voice announcing yet another delay, you hear the distant strains of a piano. You dismiss it because you're on your way to somewhere, but with each clicking step the strains grow louder. You round a corner and there sits a man playing a gentle sounding song that you recognize as being from one of the great composers, but you can't think which one, because you're in a hurry. You begin to hum the song and slow your steps, trying to retrieve the name from the recesses of your brain. 
You notice the man is wearing a tattered white t-shirt and stained khakis. You see that the soles of his shoes have almost worn off. On the floor next to him is a back pack and some plastic grocery bags stuffed with personal belongings. His entire life on the floor next to him. You're no longer rushing. You're standing and listening, watching his hands elegantly slide across the keys, wondering why he chose such a gentle song, one that seems to clash with his likely harsh existence. You leave after a few minutes, but that thing that was so urgent and the place you needed to me are no longer calling as loudly. The music has created a buffer and you leave Five Points, the gentle song and the solitary man following you. 
That is the goal of Pianos for Peace -- to create unity in a world that desperately needs it. 



His laughter is disarming and alarming. When one meets a renowned concert pianist, one creates an image. Malek Jandali will challenge that. He greets you with a hug, his laughter ringing out. He is prone to bursts of spontaneous dance, the kind of person whose arms move in direct proportion to his constantly moving mouth. "We wanted to reach everyone. Underline everyone." He runs his finger across an open palm. German born, Jandali is a Syrian American who calls Atlanta home. With the help of artists and even Atlanta's homeless, he collected 29 pianos and painted them in bright hues, intentionally not blending into their surroundings. 
The pianos sit outside, all over Atlanta, from Georgia Tech to Piedmont Park, to several MARTA stations. They are there for everyone, anyone to play. "We have a symphony for peace right now." The laughter again as he waves his arms and yells out. "All over the city!"   
He begins his lunchtime concert at Piedmont Park, his audience a few passing walkers. Then some cyclists pass by and yell out, "Amazing!" He yells back, "Aaaaggghh!" never missing a note. Some cyclists ditch their bikes and then Jandali leaps from the bench, shaking hands and pulling them toward the piano. "Oh no, I haven't played in years." "I don't know how." They are embarassed. One woman sits down and pounds out chopsticks, raising her arms in victory afterwards. The small group now assembled claps enthusiastically. A college student whose cheeks flamed red when Jandali pulled her by her hand to the piano, sits down and plays Beethoven, beautifully. Jandali exclaims with delight and begins a jig, moving his arms like a conductor. 
He asks everyone what they think. They share with him how music makes them feel, how the world stops, how their troubles are lessened. Yes, they think it can help. They're not sure exactly. They use words like harmony and unity and he is delighted. 



Later that day on the Georgia Tech campus, two friends pause at the piano on their way to class. One taps out a few notes and then her friend plays a song. After they leave, freshman Robert Solomon walks up, unable to resist the call of his favorite instrument. With no fanfare or fans he begins to play George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a difficult piece of music. He is on a stage with an audience of passersby coeds. In lieu of applause he is offered a turned head or a slightly slowed step.  
At Underground Atlanta, Darrius Moulden was heading to the bus stop when he stopped at the piano. He plays 'Easy like Sunday Morning.' One man walks up and begins to dance and sing. The man is shushed by others who have stopped to listen and he says something back to them and leaves. A group of teenaged boys approach the piano. "Do you know any rap?" 
Inside MARTA's Five Points station, Oriana Wisdom didn't know where the piano came from when she first saw it. She only knew that it made her happy. "I walk into Five Points and pianos appear and I'm like where is this stuff coming from? And I see someone playing Chopin and I'm like, 'Wow this is amazing.' You always have some responsibility that you're worried about and you're just rushing to your destination -- how to solve this problem, do this and that, and you're just rushing to get to your destination and you listen to music and it just stops." She plays as people pass. She's on her way to somewhere, but it can wait a few minutes. "It's just nice. It's just so freeing. Just for that moment." 
"Music changes people and people change the world," says Jandali. 
In unlikely places, among the noise and hum of a busy city, beauty is competing, not always winning, but always striving.
Maybe that's the message of Pianos for Peace, that each note fills the spaces within us, and between us, leaving only room for harmony.
There are 29 Pianos for Peace throughout Atlanta that will be there there until September 18. Click here for a list of locations. There is also an app for locating the pianos. iPhone App | Android App

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