How a composer turned 6 abandoned pianos into a unique concert

Video produced by Chelsea Hernandez.

Composer Nathan Felix was living in Los Angeles when he decided to write a very specific kind of piece: one for six pianos played at once.

The catch? Felix does not play the piano.

Felix made his name as a self-made composer in 2013 when he composed his first symphony with no formal music training. He usually writes choral or orchestral numbers and said he has never written for piano. But after he moved back to the Rundberg neighborhood of North Austin, an area where he grew up, he decided to begin this next project.

“I wanted to do something that was very bold and for myself, creatively speaking, I wanted to do something that was challenging,” he said.

He collected six free pianos that he found on Craigslist and set them up in his apartment with the help of piano tuners. Last fall, he welcomed guests for a house show where six pianists performed the piece. After the concert, he donated the pianos to several local schools and community centers.

Rundberg, where the concert took place, has seen a renewed effort in the last few years to diminish crime and improve social services in the area through Restore Rundberg, an initiative that began in 2012. Felix said he hoped the project would contribute to this process by providing resources for a new generation of musicians. “I want to start grooming and growing the next crop of young, talented kids,” he said.

This report originally appeared on PBS member station KLRU in Austin. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.