This Summer, Check Out NYC’s Own Piano Sensation

Johnny Marx, a piano street performer, brings rocking music to the parks of Manhattan each weekend.

Have you ever wondered where all the good music has gone?

Mad. Sq. Park

Well, fellow Rams, so did Johnny Marx. After playing piano since the age of 8, Marx decided that after college, a mainstream “tedious office job” was not the right path for him. Quitting that was his first step toward learning more about his overall passion in life, music.

Playing his own piano in the park—any park—throughout Manhattan was the next logical step Marx could think of to start off. Now his job allows him to earn a living, bring music to the public and be a happier person.

Making waves in The New York Time’s New York Panorama photography series, Marx is cultivating a persona catered toward his positive service in the neighborhood: bringing pleasant and affordable music in an open-to-the-community environment. I had a chance to sit down with him and gain a little more insight into his impressive run thus far. 

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Lauren: Hey Johnny, thanks for taking the time to talk! For starters, who or what was your inspiration when learning to play piano?

Johnny: I started watching my dad when I was young and began taking lessons. My dad’s always been my role model, and I wanted to imitate his piano style.

Lauren: Nice. Who are your favorite musicians you listen to?

Johnny: Grateful Dead, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton to name a few.

Lauren: So when did you find that you were looking for something more with music?

Johnny: I worked an office job for 6 months; it wasn’t my passion. I was looking for work that would make me happy, and music is that.

Lauren: Where do you store your pianos specifically? Is it a struggle to get to the park?

Johnny: My piano is stored at a Manhattan mini storage unit and it takes two roadies with a truck and moving equipment to bring the piano to the park and back.

Lauren: Which parks do you frequent the most and why? Which park is your favorite to play?

Johnny: I’ve played Washington Square Park, but Madison Square Park is my favorite park right now. It’s a pretty park that’s family oriented. There are lots of good-looking, friendly women, too.

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Lauren: How are your tips? Are people generous in The Big Apple?

Johnny: Tips are generous and I don’t like to get into specific numbers, but I live comfortably, as do many other top-level street musicians.

Lauren: What was the coolest thing a person has done that you can think of while you were performing?

Johnny: People often make cool drawings or write me touching notes in my buckets. This always makes me feel fulfilled and purposeful.

Lauren: Would you recommend any other awesome street performers for Fordham University students to come check out on a summer day?

Johnny: I’d recommend checking out Colin Huggins in Washington Square Park. He’s an amazing classical pianist and composer.

Lauren: Have you moved onto any other side projects concerning your music?

Johnny: My main project is a funky-bluesy-rock band called Animal Reporters. Check us out!!

Lauren: Do you find yourself doing this for the next few years?

Johnny: I honestly imagine myself playing music for a living, and for the rest of my life. I love it too much to do anything else.

Lauren: Where can people find a way to follow your musical endeavors?

Johnny: Follow me on Facebook and Instagram @marxintheparks. Follow my band Animal Reporters on Facebook where our debut single, “The Mailman”, is out now.

Here’s a clip of Johnny performing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles in Madison Square Park. Enjoy, and spread the good word!

 

*All photos/videos courtesy of Lauren MacDonald

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