The Port Authority Bus Terminal: Bringing World-class Music to Weary Commuters

By Neal Buccino, Media Relations Staff

“Rhapsody in Blue.” No song better captures New York City’s buoyant diversity and constant motion.

And no song was a better choice to dedicate the Port Authority Bus Terminal’s newest visitor: a rainbow-colored baby grand piano located on the facility’s new Performing Arts Stage, overlooking the main circulation area. It was installed by the nonprofit organization Sing for Hope to inspire tens of thousands of commuters at the end of a long working day.

On Wednesday, the piano came to life with breathtaking inaugural performances by musician Michael Fennelly — whose rendition of “Rhapsody in Blue” stopped commuters in their tracks — and opera singer Monique McDonald, whose performance of a Richard Wagner aria seemed to transport every listener to another world.

Regular performances will be scheduled initially on Wednesdays and Fridays at the start of the afternoon rush hour, continuing at least through the holiday season and possibly into the new year.

Diannae Ehler, General Manager of the world’s busiest bus terminal, said the installation is an innovative addition to the bus terminal’s “Quality of Commute” program, an initiative to improve the customer experience for the 232,000 passengers who use the terminal each weekday.

Piano at PABT

PABT General Manager Diannae Ehler  Photo Credit:  PA Conrad Barclay

Quality of Commute is showing strong results in areas more closely associated with daily commuting: improving on-time arrival of buses, reducing terminal crowding and congestion on nearby streets, and investing in renovated restrooms, signage, lighting, cellular service and other amenities

“Music adds another important element,” Ehler said. “It speaks to the soul.  If these performances become something commuters can look forward to, the piano will be a great new service.”

This is the 338th piano that Sing for Hope has placed in a public space in New York City.  Camille Zamora, co-founder of the organization, said that “these pianos break down barriers between New Yorkers who normally wouldn’t stop and engage with one another. People stop, listen and share, and they start to engage with one another in very meaningful ways.”

The piano, which was donated at no cost to the Port Authority, will not lack for talented musicians. Sing for Hope boasts a roster of 2,000 volunteer artists drawn from Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and beyond. The Port Authority is also seeking members of the public to volunteer their talents behind the keyboard.

Wednesday’s performances by Fennelly and McDonald – and by fellow pianists Jae Han, Neil Davis and Adrian Untermyer – transfixed commuters near the performance area.

Piano at PABT

Opera singer Monique McDonald

“This is exactly what the bus terminal needed,” said one commuter before bursting into applause.

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