Joy and travel, in the key of life

Heather McGregorPost Independent EditorGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – New York City pianist Dotan Negrin rolled his Kohler & Campbell console piano onto the Seventh Street Esplanade Wednesday afternoon and turned on his musical charm.”I’m trying to bring people together through the power of music,” said Negrin, who turns 25 next week.In April, Negrin embarked on a cross-country trip that he is calling “Piano Across America,” stopping in cities and towns along the way to play his piano in improbable public places.He’s driving a retired Penske box truck to haul the 450-pound piano, and going wherever he wants. His loop trip has taken him to Georgia, Los Angeles, Seattle and Glacier National Park.”I met a girl in Bozeman who recommended that I come to Glenwood Springs,” he wrote in an email to the Post Independent Aug. 1. Since then, he traveled through Wyoming, stayed a week in Salt Lake City, and stopped in Moab for a day of mountain biking.On his arrival in Glenwood Springs Wednesday, he first checked out the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge, but worried the traffic noise would drown out his music. Once he saw the Seventh Street Esplanade, he quickly unloaded his piano onto the sidewalk and began a concert of popular and classic piano tunes, including Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” A huge map of the United States is taped to the back of his piano, with his route traced in a heavy colored line.Resting atop the piano was Negrin’s pup, Brando, yet another form of attraction for the extroverted pianist. He uses his music and the novelty of playing the piano outdoors to lure an audience and strike up a conversation.”I love talking to people,” he said.”My mission is to inspire people to create unique projects like this, to pursue their passions rather than settling for a job that brings in money. I believe anyone can do anything if they have enough passion.”This is not a fundraising trip to benefit a charity. It’s a personal challenge, originally planned as a solo trip across America to develop himself as a musician.But as he has stopped and played in 30 cities and towns, met hundreds of people and reached others through his online blog, he has come to see that the trip is as much about connecting with people.”Later on, I realized how many people were messaging me about how I was inspiring them, and I could see it was much more powerful to help people and bring people together,” he said.The inspiration is swinging both ways, through conversations with inspiring people.”I have a piece of paper on my piano where I log them in. I write down what we talked about, because I am getting little tidbits of wisdom from each one. And then I post that on my blog,” Negrin said. After graduating from college, Negrin worked odd jobs that started to involve solo driving over long distances. His test run was a trip from New York to Florida delivering artwork. From there, the idea evolved for a cross-country trip of his own making.Through a sideline business selling things on eBay, he earned enough to buy his piano and truck. Now he’s experiencing the U.S. in an unplanned and personal way.”This trip reflects my life. I like to try unique things,” Negrin said. His only expectation is to cover his travel expenses with donations tossed into a bucket. By the time he left Seattle, he had $3 left in his bank account and $165 in cash earned working at a coffee shop there. His current balance is $113. Although a Glenwood Springs police officer stopped by to tell him that busking isn’t allowed on the city’s streets, Negrin laughed it off, noting that he had plenty of money to get to his next destinations: Aspen, Denver and Boulder.He was thinking that he would be home to New York by the time his birthday arrives next weekend, but that now looks unlikely.”I will probably be with some random stranger I don’t even know yet,” he said.To follow Negrin’s journey, visit his blog at, or look on Facebook for PianoAcrossAmerica.

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