Malek Jandali is quietly tapping out the melody of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a baby grand his nonprofit, Pianos for Peace, has just delivered to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The familiar lullaby may seem a bit elementary for an artist of Jandali’s renown, but entirely appropriate given the unifying mission of the organization he founded four years ago.
“We strive to transform lives and communities by making the arts accessible to all,” Jandali says via phone. “Our mission is to build peace through music and education.”
The piano he’s playing is one of 88 to be donated to the Atlanta community this year – and one of five funded by The
Jandali, a German-born, Syrian-American pianist who has performed with orchestras around the world and composed several modern classical works, drew inspiration from his international travels to launch Pianos for Peace in his hometown of Atlanta.
“I saw beautiful public art everywhere from New York to Paris to Moscow,” he said. “But I realized that public art doesn’t usually engage the public. I knew I wanted these beautifully painted pianos to be out in the streets to unite, inspire and engage people. After all, ‘unity’ is part of the word ‘community’ and, as an American artist, it’s my duty to give back to the community.”
Pianos for Peace invites anyone and everyone to start conversations, to sit down and play a tune, and to make memories. The instruments are designed to catch both eyes and ears with a refreshingly unexpected spectacle – colorfully painted pianos in free, outdoor spaces – and to be touched, played, photographed and shared.
“People are not just passing by these pianos... they’re meant to be experienced,” said Jandali, a noted philanthropist who received the 2014 Global Music Humanitarian Award for his advocacy for peace and human rights. “We’re showing that music can be a magical, unifying force.”
He adds, “In fact, since we’ve been speaking, six people have played this piano.”
Pianos for Peace “completes the circle” by bringing the beautiful instruments to organizations in need at the end of the festival. The pianos will be used as part of music therapy sessions, school music programs and more.
“Many people think they disappear after a few weeks,” Jandali says. “But they don’t… they go places where they can have even greater impact.”
Marisa Cerban, a
Cerban, who was born in Uruguay and spent most of her life in Argentina before moving to the U.S. in 2004, said using a piano as a blank canvas is both creatively fulfilling and emotionally rewarding.
“Seeing how a piano touches passers-by in a public space – and how happy students are when you bring one to their school – is an incredible feeling and a testament to the power of music,” she said. “This is not about aesthetics. It’s about providing tools for education and community building.”
“Malek and Pianos for Peace believe that music and art bring people together, and we believe
Jandali agrees. “Having
"This is an open invitation for everyone to join our symphony for peace. The word ‘symphony’ means ‘to sing together’, and that’s what we will witness this year – the largest symphony for peace Atlanta has ever seen."
Download the Pianos for Peace mobile app (Apple / Android) to find out where to find a painted piano throughout metro Atlanta. Each piano has its own page with location information, photos, artist bios and more.