Ain’t It Grand: Piano In Bay Has Miami Beach Abuzz

There’s a new set of Florida keys – a grand piano that has mysteriously appeared on a sandbar in Biscayne Bay.

Locals from nearby South Beach have speculated about music videos or a romantic date. A filmmaker has claimed credit for hauling it to the sandbar on a barge, saying it was meant to portray the death of art. But he offered no proof.

Photo: AP Photo
U.S. Coast Guard boat passes near a grand piano on a sandbar in Biscayne Bay in Miami.

The rumors have started buzzing in this laid-back stretch of coast, just north of the glitzy clubs and restaurants where such a piano might be more appropriate.

Karla Murray was so intrigued that she woke up Wednesday and swam about 200 yards out to the sandbar, saying she couldn’t pass up the “thrill of the hunt.”

When she got there, she found that the piano was damaged and charred, as if someone had set it on fire, she said. There were no engraved messages or clues.

“I wanted to see it firsthand,” said Murray, a 42-year-old professional photographer who wanted to shoot the piano up close.

Nearby, rumors swirled at the Water’s Edge Cafe, where owner Derek Tolmie says talk of the piano has been as popular as his crab cakes and cosmopolitans. Some said they noticed helicopters and film crews taping a famous singer.

But Tolmie dismissed the talk.

“It looked like somebody was playing the piano and someone was filming from a small boat,” said Tolmie, who noticed the instrument two or three weeks ago. “No helicopters. That’s a rumor.”

Curious bloggers took to the Internet with their conjecture. Suzanne Beard’s photo of the piano, accompanied by a cluster of pelicans, was picked up by the National Geographic earlier this month.

Beard said she was on her boat one Sunday when she noticed the piano.

Independent moviemaker Billy Yeager called The Associated Press to claim credit, saying he and his wife hauled it there while shooting a film, “Jesus of Malibu.” He said they’ve left five pianos around the world, in Guatemala, Costa Rica and two in California, in Malibu and Death Valley, as an artistic protest.

He said they sold their possessions to embark on a film career to encourage others to live free of consumerism, pop culture and the media.

A friend told him about the media frenzy over the piano, Yeager said, so he decided to come forward and issued a statement saying: “Listen to the piano, a piano for Miami, the wasteland of the world.”

Yeager’s website shows photos of upright pianos and a keyboard on a beach, but nothing resembling the hulking grand on the sandbar in Biscayne Bay. He said they painstakingly pulled the piano on a homemade barge behind a boat at night and are planning to take a photo of it during a sunrise on the bay.

It’s not clear what will become of the piano. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino said the agency is not responsible for moving such items and the U.S. Coast Guard won’t get involved unless it becomes a hazard to navigation.

Alan Klopman, a writer whose home office has a picturesque view of the sweeping bay and the spit of sand, has been tracking the piano’s progress.

“I’ve been trying to figure it out. I’ve taken probably over 200 photos of it,” Klopman said. “There was a bench with it initially.”

One of his neighbors, Marlene Guyton, also has been keeping an eye on it – through her binoculars.

Francisco Casiano, 62, walks daily to the peaceful bay from his home.

“Who would dream of someone playing in the middle of the bay like that? It’s very unusual,” Casiano said. “I guess you’d have a nice view.”