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Have piano, will travel

Between New York and Seattle -- with upright piano in tow -- one man found the answer to his problems and shared it with the world. 


Fernando Alfonso III


Posted on Sep 27, 2011   Updated on Jun 3, 2021, 2:33 am CDT

Traveling across America by plane can be a challenge.

Random searches, full body scanners, and delayed flights can often make for a long and tiresome trip.

Now imagine traveling from New York to Seattle in a truck with an upright piano in the back and a dog in the front.

That’s exactly what Dotan Negrin, 25, did.

For the last five months, Negrin and his dog Brando (named after his favorite actor, Marlon Brando) have been traveling around the country, playing his piano at bars, restaurants, and out in the street.

Negrin has been chronicling his trip on his Tumblr blog called “Piano Across America.” It has 4,300 followers, gets about 1,000 visitors a day, and was featured on the Tumblr Staff blog, Negrin said in an interview with the Daily Dot.

The point of his blog, and of the trip, was to “inspire people to be creative with their career goals” and to learn about himself.

“This trip has changed me in terms of how I see the world, in how I see my life,” Negrin said. “I don’t really have problems anymore, I just have obstacles. I don’t stress about anything.”

Negrin was born in New York City to two very artistic parents. His father was a guitarist who loved playing classical music throughout their home.

He attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia as a theatre major and lived with a jazz guitarist who used to play Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” album. While his roommate admired Miles’ guitar riffs, Negrin fell in love with the piano. During his sophomore year, Negrin got up extra early to pound away at a classroom piano, teaching himself to play.

“It didn’t sound good at all. People would complain and say, ‘what the hell are you doing.’ I was just improvising, seeing what I could come up with. People would make fun of me,” Nergin said. “It’s funny now, looking back at that.”

After college, Negin returned home to New York where he supported himself by selling shoes on eBay and acting as a chauffeur driver for an insurance broker.

In April Negin grew tried of the day to day grind. He decided to empty out his savings account, buy a truck and piano and fulfill his dreams of performing around the country.

He visited cities like New Orleans, Berkley, and Chicago, playing for hours in front of small groups of people while Brando rested near his feet. His set included 40 rock, pop, jazz and classical songs. And almost every where he went someone asked, “Why don’t you just carry around a keyboard instead of a piano?”

Nergin’s answer was always the same.

”A piano is alive. And a keyboard is static, it’s not alive. It’s not an acoustic instrument. It doesn’t give me any satisfaction,” Negrin said. “And on top of that, it’s a challenge. It’s not easy to do. I’ve learned to love the struggle and challenges in my life.”

Negrin wrapped up his trip in New York on Sept. 4. He’s currently editing 13 terabytes worth of video from his travels and putting together his first album.

He plans on taking his piano out again soon, maybe to New England or Europe.

“I don’t see myself ever working for someone anymore,” Negrin said. “There’s so many other opportunities. I truly believe there’s so many other ways of making money other than working underneath someone.”

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*First Published: Sep 27, 2011, 7:58 pm CDT