By Jim Bisco
When it comes to Buffalo, Mark Weber (BA ’97) sees the
glass as more than half-full—it’s positively brimming
over. His website, celebrates all things good about the
City of Good Neighbors, including his own contribution this past
summer: the placement of cheerfully painted pianos in locations
throughout the city, with an open invitation to any and all
passersby to sit down and play awhile.
Weber launched Pianos in Public Buffalo late last spring after
noticing a piano placed in Central Park during a brief move to New
York City. This, combined with his observation of pianos placarded
with “Do Not Play” signs collecting dust in places like
senior centers (not to mention a video sent to him by a friend
showing old pianos being dropped into a city dump), got him to
thinking: Why not do the same thing in Buffalo?
Weber collected old, unwanted pianos, had volunteers make them
new again with artistically applied coats of paint, and rolled them
into eight public venues, including Canalside, Larkin Square and a
retirement home in Amherst. He raised $4,000 on Kickstarter, much
of it from people in New York City, Los Angeles, Florida and
Pennsylvania. “Once you mention this [project] to people,
they get so excited,” he says.
Though he admits to being a three-fingered chord player, Weber
is nonetheless steeped in music. He has written on the subject
extensively for national magazines, journals and blogs, and covers
Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole songs in a local
pop-jazz trio called Uptown. He also released an original pop music
album, “Days Like These,” available for download on
Amazon.com and iTunes.
His love for Buffalo runs just as deep. “The pianos are a
means to an end,” he explains. “I was tired of hearing
people say negative things about the area. I wanted to see people
feeling good about Buffalo.”
The public can still play the pianos during the winter months at
several indoor locations, including The Foundry, an arts center on
Northampton Street in the city. And Weber is already planning for
the pianos to bloom anew next summer throughout the area.
“What makes me happy is to see the little kids
play,” he says. “For a lot of them, it’s their
first time ever, and they could grow up to be the next Harry
Connick Jr. or Diana Krall.”