SUMMER 23/24

YANTRA DE VILDER BRINGS PIANOS TO THE PEOPLE
At 69 Cape Three Points Road in Avoca, a bright red piano adorned with original artworks beckons passers-by from its colourful shelter.

Share:

Children stop to run their fingers over the keys in the afternoons, rifts of Chopsticks and Heart and Soul duets announcing the end of the school day. Amateurs and accomplished musicians alike pause on their daily walks to sit down at the piano, with gentle melodic refrains serenading the neighbourhood.

The Avoca public piano is one of five on the Central Coast, lovingly rescued and restored by musical director and composer Yantra de Vilder, who is devoted to the concept of accessible music and piano recycling for the benefit of all communities. 

‘I see myself as a conduit for the pianos to encourage communities to come together and listen to outdoor acoustic music,’ says Yantra. 

A beautifully restored piano has been gifted a new home on Crystal Street in Pearl Beach, its handmade shelter aptly named the Pink Onion Piano Palace, nestled alongside the Pink Onion Sculpture Garden that features the works of local artist Gabby Porter. 

‘Pianos create connection. For many, they symbolise home and a place of belonging, imbued with musical memories – an off-grid, acoustic portal.’

Self-declared ‘eclectic woman of the world’, Yantra founded Pianos for the People after being inspired by public piano trails overseas.

‘I travelled overseas as part of my doctorate in creative arts and encountered pianos everywhere on the streets,’ she says. ‘I set myself the challenge of discovering and playing as many of these precious public instruments as possible.

‘I’ve played the piano since I was a young child – it’s my happy place – and I’ve always enjoyed playing in different and unusual locations.’

In 2010, Yantra installed a recycled grand piano on Avoca Beach as part of the 5 Lands Walk.

‘We positioned the piano on the sand under a marquee and I composed a special prelude for the occasion,’ she says. ‘The temporary installation was extremely popular and motivated me to do more.’

Famous Australian concert pianist David Helfgott OAM, who inspired the Academy Award-winning film Shine, became the official patron of Pianos for the People in 2021, following a long collaborative history with Yantra. 

‘I brought David to Avoca Theatre in 2008 to launch the grand piano I had installed there,’ says Yantra. ‘He believes strongly in this grassroots initiative and I’m thrilled to have his support.’

Pianist, David Helfgott tries out the Avoca roadside installation.

Pianos for the People is attracting attention beyond the Central Coast, with a recycled piano set to be stationed under the Harbour Bridge on 13th November, next to the historic cannon.

‘I love the juxtaposition of placing a piano, an instrument of peace, next to an instrument of war,’ says Yantra. ‘We will launch the installation with a free concert, featuring a choir and musical ensemble, inviting the community to come together for an afternoon of acoustic music.’

Central Coast residents are also invited to celebrate the restored piano in the children’s playground at The Entrance, installed as part of the annual Lakes Festival. 

Yantra relies on the support of volunteers to haul the restored pianos to their new homes – and she has big plans on the horizon.

‘I currently have 14 pianos in my garage waiting to be recycled, and I plan to send a fleet of 12 to the Northern Rivers to brighten up the homes of flood victims with the sound of piano music,’ she says.

Yantra is working hard to raise funds to cover the cost of haulage and hopes that Central Coast residents will dig deep and help her turn this dream into a reality for a community continuing to struggle.

‘I believe that pianos are trees reinvented – living beings that give and receive energy every time we touch them.

‘Many are destined for the rubbish dump, even though they are still perfectly adequate to play and enjoy. I want to return pianos to the people.’

To contribute to Yantra’s Northern Rivers project or to find out more, visit yantra.com.au/pianos-for-the-people

WHERE TO FIND THEM
69 Cape Three Points Road, Avoca Beach
Pink Onion Sculpture Garden, Crystal Street, Pearl Beach
Avoca Beach Surf Club
The Entrance Playground 
Kincumber Neighbourhood Centre

WORDS PHILIPPA MACKEN. PHOTOS YANTRA DE VILDER, LISA HAYMES

Share:

More articles