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.”