Aug 3, 2021

A new public piano, recently installed by a Newburyport resident and rising junior at Virginia Tech, aims to raise awareness for mental health and funds for a 10-year-old boy.

Mateo McDermott, Newburyport resident and rising junior at Virginia Tech, is responsible for a new outdoor public piano you’ll see next to the Tuscan Sea Grill and Bar in downtown Newburyport. His aim is three-fold: raise awareness for mental health, raise spirits, and raise money to help a 10-year-old boy named Charli.

“I taught myself piano over the winter and its been eight months now playing,” McDermott said. “I feel like my mental health has definitely improved because of it.”

As a biomedical engineering student, McDermott is interested in fixing. He’s president of the e-NABLE chapter at Virginia Tech, where students there develop and manufacture affordable 3D-printed prosthetics for Charli, a young boy in need of prosthetics for daily use and sports. The club at Virginia Tech is just one beneficiary of donations received either at the piano (where a cash box is located) or via Venmo.

Mateo Piano 01

Caption Mateo McDermott with the Play the Moment Public Piano in downtown Newburyport. McDermott sourced, tuned, painted and placed the piano this summer. [Photo courtesy of Mateo McDermott.]

McDermott picked up piano during the pandemic, as he found more solitary ways to care for his mental health. “Mental health is definitely related to piano and music in general,” he said. McDermott wants to raise awareness for mental health with the public piano, too, directing a portion of the donations to the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH).

“Research supports our own lived experiences that music can help maintain mental health, and music therapy has been used to help treat depression, trauma, and other mental health conditions,” said MAMH President and CEO Danna Mauch. “As we begin the recovery from the social isolation, loneliness, and anxiety of the pandemic, finding strategies in our everyday lives to support, maintain, and improve our mental health is so important. Music is one of those strategies, and MAMH is excited to be part of this project!”

This particular piano, painted with scenes familiar to a beach community, made its way to Newburyport from South Berwick, Maine. McDermott picked up the family piano, with the help of friends, in a moving truck earlier this summer. With the continued approval of city hall, the hope is to bring the piano back in summers to come for all to enjoy.

You can listen to Mateo's interview with WBZ News Radio and hear him play by clicking here.

“You can kind of imagine the feeling you get when you can walk up to the piano and people surround you.”
Mateo McDermott

You can find McDermott’s Play the Moment Public Piano next to Tuscan Sea Grill and Bar in downtown Newburyport through August 19. Donations received at the piano (via the cash box) or through the mobile payment app Venmo (@newburyportpublicpiano) are split evenly between Virginia Tech’s e-NABLE Club, MAMH, and costs associated with maintenance of the piano.

Can't make it to Newburyport?

You can follow along via Instagram @play_the_moment_piano for live performances and more. See Ryan Rose with an impromptu evening performance here.

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