Brooklyn Standard Union
6 May 1906

  Wandering through the streets of Brooklyn these pleasant spring days, 
there goes a person who generally speaking isn't thought particularly
valuable.  Sometimes he's paid to loiter five or ten cents worth and
sometimes he's paid an equally large sum to move on when he is
tempted to sojourn a brief while.  His audience is composed of a most 
appreciative set of beings and what he gives them seems to strike a
responsive chord.  At any rate, in a few minutes he is surrounded by a
group of joyous youngsters.  Now this wanderer is the music man, which 
his street piano, and as everybody knows he caters principally to
children.  The warm weather brings his audience out in large numbers so
the music man is doing some pretty good business now and it will continue 
until the winter blasts keep the children in the house.

  The street piano man in most cases is an Italian and coming from a land 
of sunshine, flowers and music, he very naturally takes to the musical
career.  Talk about good music for the masses, why there isn't any
institution in Brooklyn that is doing so much toward educating the public  
musically as the street piano man.  The next time he comes near your
house just toss out ten cents to him.  He'll play his whole repertoire for 
five cents, but what he is playing this year is well worth more.  Ponder
over the dollars sent to hear foreign birds and give to this humble
exponent a little more generously.  At the first sound of the piano you 
may not be pleased, because it's probably catering at that minute to your  
back door rather than to your listening ears, but pay attention to the next  
selection.  What is it?  What picture does it bring to your mind?  The
ramparts of the Castle of St. Angelo, Rome, and in the distance St. Peter's  
Cathedral.  Why don't you remember it's that soul-tearing music of Tosca!  
Then maybe sprinkled in will come another popular song, but now what's
this?  Ah! "Celestial Aida."  Can it be possible?  Yes, it is just that very
music, and the concern goes on and next you hear the intermezzo from
"Cavailleria Rusticana" and something from Pagliacci, then Gounod's "Ave  
Maria", etc  Isn't it true that the street piano man is elevating the musical 
taste of the public, and all for five or ten cents?  Instead of being looked  
upon as a nuisance, as he is so frequently considered, he is really a 
public benefactor.  He is dispensing good music, making the masses
familiar with it so that before the listener realizes the fact he's whistling 
the music of Tosca just as familiarly as if it were the "Yankee Doodle Boy" 
or some other equally meritorious selection.

  The organ grinder doesn't realize that he is doing anything remarkable in  
an educating way.  In fact he has no such intention, but the Italians live
and breathe in a musical atmosphere, and they are as familiar with the
music of Magcagni, Puccini and Leoncavallo, as American children are
with music of much lower grade.  The bambinos are sung to sleep with the 
music that Americans pay fabulous sums to hear.  And the sight of the
Italian street piano man as he grinds out the music of his beloved Italy 
is well worth having.  He doesn't see our busy streets where the people 
are rushing hither and thither and having no time to listen to him, but he 
sees men in picturesque costumes, rings in their ears, bright sashes
around their waists and the women with gaily colored dresses.  And
everybody is moving along in a lazy sort of way and humming this music 
that he is playing.  He looks a very homesick Italian as he moves wearily 
up the street, dodging horses, devil wagons and people.  But whether he
realizes it or not he is becoming more and more an educator in music, and 
as such he should be encouraged to some often and loiter long and after 
awhile the coon songs, the sentimental wails and others of equally touching 
portant will give way to real music.

  There is another straw which shows which way the musical wind is blowing 
in Brooklyn.  In the tenement district where a lucky strike has mad it 
possible for certain of the inhabitants to buy a talking machine that 
wheezes forth its verbal and musical utterances, it is interesting to
 know that Mr. R. WAGNER is one of the most popular composers and his 
music is hear very often.

  "The Evening Star," from "Tannhanser" is one of the especial favorites and
"Lohengrin" is a close second.  To those who are constantly deploring the
lack of good taste in the public's musical likes and dislikes this will be 
good news.  And the hurdy-gurdy man, whose biggest audiences gather in the
tenement districts, has helped to create this fondness for the best.

  "Paw and Maw" sitting in the window on a warm evening hear this music
from the street piano, and Paw says to Maw, "We'll have to get that piece 
as soon as we git more dough than the children can eat up."  And when that 
day comes they "git that piece."

Transcribed for the Brooklyn Page by Carol Granville