August 9 — NEWBURYPORT – Take a stroll on the town promenade until August 19 and you might hear the heartwarming sounds of someone playing a Beatles or Coldplay song on a psychedelic-looking upright piano.
Come back a few minutes later and you might hear Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a Bill Evans jazz ballad.
All of these sounds were made possible by Mateo McDermott, a Plum Island resident and 2019 Newburyport High School graduate, who took the piano (not literally) and spent the last few weeks rehabilitating it to help raise funds for Massachusetts Association for Mental Health.
The idea of acquiring a piano and putting it up for public use – a business he calls “Play the Moment Public Piano” – came as a whim as he sought to get rid of things before. to travel to Virginia Tech where he studies to become a biomedical engineer.
Knowing that the Facebook Marketplace page was a great way to sell junk, he came across people looking to get rid of pianos.
Due to their bulk and the cost associated with maintaining them, many people give away their old pianos for free. McDermott was familiar with other public pianos and had the idea to bring one to Newburyport for a few weeks to raise money for his favorite charity.
McDermott found one he liked in South Berwick, Maine. With a rental truck and a few buddies, he collected the approximately 400-pound piano and brought it to his friend’s garage.
Until July he worked on the piano to give it a new look and a deep focus. At the same time, he began chatting with officials at Newburyport Town Hall about where to place the piano. After some back and forth of ideas, the sculpture patch next to the boardwalk near Tuscan Kitchen was chosen.
“It gets a lot of attention there,” McDermott said.
Katie Myos from Beverly stopped by Friday afternoon to play the instrument.
“It’s fantastic. We love music and art. We love coming to Newburyport,” said Myos, who was there with his family. “What a great positive thing.”
McDermott, who learned to play the piano on his own about eight months ago, said knowing people liked him made him very happy.
“Yeah, I love it. People all around say they love it,” McDermott said.
A week ago McDermott and five of his friends lifted the piano from a trailer and hauled it under a large tree where it is now.
McDermott, who spends much of the summer at the Newburyport Public Library studying for the fall semester, often visits the piano.
Sometimes he just comes to make sure the tarp he left there is placed on it at the end of the day or when the rain comes. He also checks the humidity, knowing that if it goes up to 70% it could start to rust the strings of the piano. A portable sensor placed inside the piano cabinet alerts it if the humidity reaches 70%.
People visiting or playing the piano are encouraged to make a donation to the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health. McDermott said there is a strong link between music and mental health, with researchers saying music can help maintain mental health and music therapy can be used to treat trauma and depression.
To learn more about the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health or to donate, visit: mamh.org
Editor-in-chief Dave Rogers can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ drogers41008.