By Della Hasselle
GREENWICH VILLAGE — A Yamaha baby grand piano is the newest fixture at Washington Square Park this summer, thanks to a man who dubs himself the "Crazy Piano Guy" and some very generous New Yorkers.
Colin Huggins, 33, has been tickling the ivories in subway stations and Manhattan parks for close to three years now. As of Saturday, however, the piano officianado started tinkering with his new toy in the Greenwich Village park after raising $8,790 through a campaign promoted via Facebook.
"It's very humbling, you know," Huggins said at his debut performance in the park with the piano Saturday. "A lot of people came together to make this happen."
Huggins has performed on an upright piano in Washington Square park since 2008 after quitting jobs as an accompanist at American Ballet Theatre and music director at the Joffrey School. His hour and a half set list includes Schubert, Liset, the Beatles, Chiopin, Puccini and movie themes like "Amelie."
Many of his fans in the park urged him to trade in the upright piano for the better-sounding baby grand and encouraged him to raise the money.
in less than three months, the pianist managed to convince 167 people to donate the funds, and bought the piano through Craigslist from a couple in Washington Heights. He stores the piano in a nearby Manhattan Mini Storage.
"I just enjoy hearing Colin play so much all the time," Greenwich Village resident Carol Barclay, 66 said. Barclay, who works with babies that have disabilities, gave a donation of $50 to help Huggins get the piano to the park. "What attracts me to Colin is that not only that he has a real piano in the park but that he plays Classical music."
"When someone does something for me like that I figure I owe them a few bucks," she added.
Although Huggins admits he feels guilty about potentially ruining the baby grand due to conditions like sun exposure and humidity, the audience agreed with him Saturday that the quality of the new piano is incomparable to the old one.
"Nothing beats an acoustic piano, especially a baby grand," said Barbara Anel, 54, who is a pianist when she is not working her job as a sergeant at the Bronx courthouse."Regardless of what he's up against he still makes beautiful music."
In the park Saturday, Huggins soaked in the sun and applause, seeming to enjoy the atmosphere as much as his audience.
"My favorite part of playing outside is the freedom of it," Huggins said. "There's no artistic thing I've done in my whole life that's been so free."
"And every once in awhile there will be this one beautiful, integral moment," he added. "And everyone's just so happy. I kind of feel like a celebrity."