The dozen old pianos that Artist Mauro Fortissimo hauled out to the beaches of San Mateo County are inspiring spontaneous concerts. (Francesca Segrè/KQED)
The dozen old pianos that artist Mauro Ffortissimo hauled out to the beaches of San Mateo County are inspiring spontaneous concerts. (Francesca Segrè/KQED)

By Francesca Segrè

A Half Moon Bay sculptor hauled a dozen old pianos out to the bluffs along the San Mateo County coast. The guerrilla art installation is catching the attention of tourists, locals and authorities.

Artist Mauro Di Nucci, who goes by the name Mauro Ffortissimo, pushed the pianos out to the scenic spots without waiting for permits to come through, which he says could have taken years.

Instead, he wanted to draw people together immediately, through music and spontaneous piano playing.

“I have neighbors who haven’t seen each other in years! The piano brought them out of the house,” Ffortissimo says. “It gets them to step away from the computer a bit.”

Neil Merrilees, swirling a glass of white wine, lives half a block from one piano at Surfer’s Beach in Half Moon Bay. He’s been coming nightly to listen. “It’s been packed every night — in that it’s been played — up until 11 o’clock. Even in the dark,” he reports.

Neighbors and tourists gather around the old pianos that Artist Mauro Fortissimo hauled out to the beaches of San Mateo County. (Francesca Segrѐ/ KQED)
Neighbors and tourists gather around the old pianos that Artist Mauro Fortissimo hauled out to the beaches of San Mateo County. (Francesca Segrѐ/ KQED)

A couple of miles down the road at Francis Beach, Mauro Fortissimo plays a baby grand. He accompanies two men who are reading poetry to an audience of two dozen. As if poetry and piano in plein air weren’t enough, Ffortissimo simultaneously plays the melodica, an instrument somewhat like an accordion. But instead of pumping it, he blows into it.

Ffortissimo believes the music created in the drop-in concerts travels beyond the immediate beaches. “The idea of bringing music out is to just get away from the concert halls where they bounce from wall to wall and ends there,” Fortissimo says. “This, you put the sounds out and they travel.”

A 6-year-old girl is next at the bench, followed by 20-year-old Rebecca Young of Belmont. “Combining music and nature – it’s inspiring. It’s surreal,” Young says.

The idea to push the pianos to the beach came to Ffortissimo after the Oakland Unified School District gave him nine old pianos it couldn’t find a buyer for. Ffortissimo collects old pianos. He deconstructs the instruments (he calls it “liberating”) and reconstructs them into sculpture.

Six-year-old Penelope Keep performs at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay on one of twelve old pianos that artist Mauro Fortissimo hauled out to the beaches of San Mateo County. (Francesca Segrѐ/ KQED)
Six-year-old Penelope Keep performs at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay on one of twelve old pianos that artist Mauro Fortissimo hauled out to the beaches of San Mateo County. (Francesca Segrѐ/ KQED)

But since Ffortissimo decided against waiting for permits to start this art project, authorities have been removing the 800-pound pianos from their beachfront spots one at a time over the past two weeks. Ffortisimo laughs: “The Federales are after me!”

Ffortisimo expects two of the original twelve pianos to hold their ground at Tunitas Beach and Francis Beach until the grand finale at sunset Sunday night, at which point Ffortissimo will haul what’s left to his studio to transform them into their next artistic incarnation.

  • Judy Shintani

    I gotta love my small town community going big time in a friendly way

    • http://morepeoplelikeus.tumblr.com/ b.tyler.burton

      And, ENTER STAGE LEFT, the small town authorities who do their part by destroying it.
      Unpermitted pianos!
      On a beach!
      What’s next? People playing cats and dogs! Ha! Here’s to fostering creativity! Good job Fortissimo!

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