Best Community Engagement: Flower Piano!

“What a Wonderful World,” played and sang by a local artist.

By Lupita Franco Peimbert.

Flower Piano is back! – The San Francisco Botanical Gardens and Sunset Piano once again offer this innovative experience to those who appreciate art and nature. It is 2022, and people are rushing to the gardens to secure the best spot for a picnic and to be able to view and listen to piano performances. Maybe it is due to our collective need to regroup and be in person in these seemingly post-COVID times, but I dare to say it is the nature of the event that intrigues and entices, moving hundreds towards Golden Gate Park, where the botanical garden is located.

Since 2015 the Al Fresco (Italian for “in the fresh air”) event delights San Franciscans and visitors with days of music and community, in one uniquely beautiful setting. Throughout 55 acres, San Francisco Botanical Garden showcases 8,000 different types of plants from around the world and it is within its gardens that the Flower Piano experience takes people to another level.

Hundreds congregated at Zellerbach Gardens on September 17, 2022, to listen to Martin Luther McCoy and Paisley Hinton, performing a mix of classic Beatles and British favorites, soul music, and songs of protest.

I attended Saturday afternoon, perusing throughout the arboretum to locate the 12 pianos and it was lovely. People, myself included, can feel a sense of community and inspiration while artists known and unknown, get a welcoming audience. It also seems to me that piano teachers and piano schools take this opportunity to bring their students and have them perform. I enjoyed seeing people from seemingly different walks of life, families, groups, and individuals, young and old, men and women, and definitely ethnically and culturally diverse.

A piano player and songwriter perform in one beautiful garden. By the way, this garden was featured in Memoirs of a Geisha.

The concept is credited to Mauro Ffortissimo and Dean Mermell. The “Sunset Piano” idea was born in 2013 when Ffortissimo placed an old grand piano onto the bluffs over Half Moon Bay, rapidly attracting crowds. Thousands went to hear the music before the county ordered the piano removed. Since then, Sunset Piano has expanded, temporarily placing pianos in natural and urban settings, and partnering with local organizations. The most prominent setting and partnership, in my opinion, is the one with the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

“Flower Piano is located at that magical intersection of music and nature,” says Dean Mermell, co-founder, together with Mauro ffortissimo, of Sunset Piano. “It’s a uniquely safe outdoor space where we can be our best as humans, enjoying the Bay Area’s finest musicians in the city’s most beautiful setting.”

Flower Piano in its 2022 version at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

Flower Piano can be experienced from September 16 through September 20, 2022, at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens located in Golden Gate Park, rain or shine. San Francisco residents enter free with proof of residence. Children 5 -11 pay $3, youth 12-17 $7, families $21, adult $17, and senior $7. You may go to the SF Botanical Garden website for all details.

Please remember there is a shuttle that can take you to the park from Haigh Street by Whole Foods. Get there early to find the best places to sit. Wear layers. Bring your own food but in case you don’t, find pretzels and coffee at the north entrance of SF Botanical Garden. Enjoy!

Young student performing in the shades of a magnificent tree at the SF Botanical Gardens.

Here is a story I wrote in 2017: The SF Botanical Garden Has Found The Best Way For People to Play The Piano.

Here is a story about 12 Pianos, the Documentary.


Lupita Franco Peimbert is a media and communications professional. She also is a bilingual multimedia freelancer and the publisher of Lupitanews.

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