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Flower Power and Beyond: Two Events Showcasing Pianists

July 5, 2017

It may be summer vacation time for students and office workers, but the Bay Area’s pianists will be sweating over their instruments this month. Here are two events where you can be part of the action.

Flower Piano (July 13-24, San Francisco Botanical Garden): For the third year in a row, the S.F. Botanical Garden will be home to 12 different pianos for 12 days and any visitor is invited to play one. The event was dreamed up by Mauro Ffortissimo and Dean Mermell, the proprietors of Sunset Piano, and has been a hit with locals, according to Ann Schiff, the executive director of the Botanical Society: “Each year, we hear from visitors how meaningful the experience of Flower Piano is,” she says. “The sense of community it engenders within our oasis of beauty and diversity is an antidote to the stresses and discord of our times. Over 40,000 people were delighted and moved by Flower Piano last year.”

Sunset Piano, a small piano restoration business, provides pianos of all sorts for the event, and as SFCV reported before the initial festival, its owners have an “art for the people” philosophy that has driven a lot of their activity: “We’ve found that music enjoyed in a beautiful setting under the sky builds an instant camaraderie even among perfect strangers. Flower Piano is going to bring people together under the best possible circumstances. It’s going to be very social, possibly even romantic.”

The two-week event has dozens of professional performers scheduled as well, playing everything from jazz to popular song to contemporary classical new compositions to standard classical repertory. There will also be young performers from Oakland School for the Arts and the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. The Community Music Center hosts a Summer of Love sing-along. And there’s a Beatnik Corner, with spoken-word and music collaborations. All the events are free with admission to the Botanical Garden, with the exception of the brand new NightGarden Piano (Saturday, July 22, 7:30-10:30) in which visitors can wander lit pathways in the dark and discover pianos waiting to be played, along with professional performers. That event is $40.

Admission to the Botanical Garden is free for San Francisco residents (with proof of residence), and $2-$8 for everyone else (and $17 total for families of two adults and children.)

pianoSonoma Music Festival (July 23-Aug 5, Schroeder Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State): Here’s an intimate music festival, featuring young artists mentored by festival co-founders Michael Shinn (chair of Keyboard Studies at the Juilliard School) and Jessica Chow Shinn (also a Juilliard piano faculty member). The six artists-in-residence also are highly accomplished, most of them with ties to Juilliard as well. The tiny festival has, of course, wine tastings along with the concerts. Performances are July 25 and 27 and August 1 and 3, all at 6 p.m.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.