I don’t know if Frank Horvat quite knew what to expect when he volunteered to hold a 20-hour piano-thon. The event would coincide with the 20th anniversary of Lakeshore Arts, a community arts organization in Toronto, and raise money to support its programming. But I’ll say this for him: He was dedicated. “I wanted something unique to help feature Lakeshore Arts,” says this acclaimed pianist and composer. Plus, he admits, “I’ve always been fascinated by endurance events.”
Endurance this certainly called for. Starting at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, Frank played piano nonstop with but a single five-minute break each hour. (We can only imagine he found ways to fill those five minutes.) Every note he played was improvised. The piano-thon was broadcast live on the Lakeshore Arts website, while the donations poured in.
By the time I learned about Frank’s creative quest and tuned in to the live video feed, it was already the next morning. Frank had surpassed the 20-hour mark and raised almost $6,000. But he was still playing, having decided to keep reaching for more. Either that, or in his sleep-deprived state it was just easier to keep the hands moving across the keys in a kind of inertia.
“I think I’m still sane, so that’s a good thing,” he dictated in an email to his fans, after the first 20 hours had passed. But he also urged more donors to step up. At this point Frank’s music was a little less, um, lively compared to the first hour. Don’t get me wrong, his playing still sounded great – but my own back and shoulders were cringing in sympathy just watching him. He claims he was tired but not at all sore. (He’s younger than me, the punk.)
Also by mid-morning he had donned a pair of sunglasses. Apparently the shades were necessary because of the morning sun and camera lights. But Frank confesses to dozing off on purpose during the piano-thon. “I often dream of music in my head while I sleep, so it didn’t seem that big a deal… instinctive, I guess.” He says. “Every time I did one of those little snooze episodes as I played, I woke up feeling much better.” Uh, wow?
Frank ended up playing for 24 hours. Total raised: over $7,100. (A lesser man would have spent almost that much on Advil in the days since.) He’s received a ton of emails since, and his story is making the social-media rounds. “I even went to a music store this morning and got the ‘Hey, you’re the piano-thon guy!’” Frank says.
He adds: “I’m humbled by all this attention I’ve received. But I’m also very happy to raise attention and funds for a great community arts organization like Lakeshore Arts. There are so many small organizations like this in our city – and other cities – that do so much.”
If you like music and happen to have 24 hours open, you can listen to the entire piano-thon on YouTube.