Are you looking for something truly magical, uplifting and FREE (for San Francisco residents) to do with your family? I have two words for you: Flower Piano.
Flower Piano is a collaboration between the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park and Sunset Piano, a team of two multi-disciplinary artists “dedicated to bringing piano culture and music to a world that needs good things.” For this twelve-day event each July, twelve pianos are scattered throughout the Botanical Garden’s 55 acres, where anyone—old, young, big, small, talented or otherwise—is welcome to sit down and play amid the trees and flowers. Check out the SF Botanical Garden’s website for the dates of this year’s exhibit.
There are also a number of more formal performances scheduled over the weekend and a few kid-oriented activities.
I stumbled upon Flower Piano a few years ago when I visited the Botanical Garden with my 9- and11-year-old daughters and their 16-year-old cousin who was visiting from New York. From the moment we entered the main entrance on 9th Avenue at Lincoln Way, we could hear the music of the pianos floating through the air. Parents strolled about with their babies and little girls pirouetted in the grass to the chords of a grand piano. There was a feeling of joy, lightness, and well-being that was immediately palpable.
While it was difficult deciding where to begin, we followed our ears and the “piano this way” sign to a white upright hidden away on a sunny, stone patio in the Garden of Fragrance. There, a woman in a cowboy hat and a breezy dress was expertly playing to a small group of people. We joined them for a few minutes, listening to Debussy among the lavender and chamomile.
Moving on, we wove our way counter-clockwise through the garden’s varied collections of some 50,000 plants and trees, stopping to hear several more impromptu performances along the way. From classical music in the Rhododendron Garden, jazz on a small pond in the Moon Viewing Garden, and even a bit of Journey in the Redwood Grove, the garden was positively bursting with the combined beauty of nature and music, each enhanced by the presence of the other.
After listening to a boy around her age play a respectable though imperfect Entertainer in the South Africa Garden, my older daughter finally mustered up the courage to sit down and play a few pieces herself in the shade of a large tree. She smiled proudly as the three of us gave her a standing ovation.
What an amazing and unique way for kids to experience both music and nature, I kept thinking to myself as I watched my girls and their cousin taking it all in. I am so glad that we were able to experience the beauty of Flower Piano and urge you to visit before the pianos are whisked back indoors.
Editor’s note: This article originally published on July 22, 2017, and was updated with recent information prior to republishing.