A secondhand piano sits, forgotten, in a Vancouver thrift store. A man with a mop of matted hair covered with a dirty bandana takes a seat on its bench. The action seems natural, as if he’s done it before.

He places his frost-bitten fingers on the worn ivories and sits for a moment, readying himself.

Then he plays.

He’s homeless, but the melody that floats from the piano sings of a different beginning.

Andrea Beaulieu and Steve Gray found their inspiration to place a piano in downtown Bangor from a viral video of a homeless man playing on the streets of Canada.

“It changed my life,” Beaulieu said of the video, which has set in motion a project that’s been in the works for almost two years.

The Kindness Project, a philanthropic group founded in 2013 by Beaulieu and Gray, will unveil a refinished piano in Pickering Square on Sept. 11. Influenced by the street piano movement popular in cities around the world, the two hope the project will spread joy and happiness to the people of Bangor.

“The reason we’re choosing Pickering Square is because it’s an area that we feel people will gravitate towards,” Beaulieu said. She cited high foot traffic due to the city bus pick-up and drop-off location as an important factor in the decision, as well as the variety of people who frequent the area.

The Kindness Project was developed with a mission to make the people of Bangor smile. Past projects have included a gift drop this past Valentines Day. Beaulieu and Gray placed packages filled with donated art pieces around the streets of downtown Bangor for locals to find. They also hosted “The Altruistic Art Show” in 2014 to raise funds for a local family burdened by hospital bills. Originally named “This Must Be For You,” The Kindness Project is a spin off of an anonymous gift-giving project in the United Kingdom. Gray contacted the makers of the U.K.-based project to develop their own project here in Bangor.

Beaulieu and Gray worked anonymously at first, but after encouragement from friends the two revealed their identities, presenting their group’s mission and goals at PechaKucha in Bangor in February 2014.

At the unveiling of the piano, local band “Tomorrow Morning” will be joined by guest musicians Beaulieu and Connor McLean to perform a short concert from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., after which the piano will remain in place for a few weeks for local residents and visitors to play. The piano will then be donated to a school or local shelter for music education.

The piano, which was donated to The Kindness Project, is currently being refurbished by local businesses that volunteered to help with preparations for the event. The Rusted Raven Furniture Co. is handling the design and refinishing. Matthew Stepp and Michael Weston, co-founders of Rusted Raven, have been working with Beaulieu to make a unique piece for Bangor to enjoy.

Stepp has known Beaulieu since the two were in grade school and was excited to get behind the project.

“This is one of those things that seemed like a natural fit,” Stepp said. “Anything that Andrea asks me to do I’m all about. This is inspirational for Mike and me because it involves music and community and art … It’s an interesting piece that will add to the character of downtown Bangor.”

Stepp said that many have expressed concern that the piano may be damaged.

“A lot of people continually kept telling me ‘That’s crazy. That’s gonna get beat up and people will vandalize it,’” he said. “It will be a societal test for Bangor.”

Stepp and Weston are working with donated paint from Serendipitous II in Bangor, another local business specializing in “upcycling” furniture. Stepp and Weston will use different mediums, including metals, plastics and wood to create a piece that has artistic as well as musical merit. Beaulieu hopes to have a plexiglass front added to the piano to reveal the intricate workings of the inside of the piece. Piano technician Wayne Bennett has donated his time to tune and repair the instrument as well.

It was important to Beaulieu and Gray that they did not solicit any money for the project. They have relied instead on the kindness of others, like Rusted Raven and Wayne Bennett, to help achieve their mission.

In cases of inclement weather, a piece of plastic anchored to the back of the piano with a weighted dowel can be pulled over it for protection. Beaulieu and Gray have reached out to local business owners and asked them to keep an eye on the instrument for the few weeks it will be in the square.

With weeks left before the instrument’s unveiling, many have stepped forward with pianos they would also like to donate. That enthusiasm has inspired Beaulieu to consider expanding the project in the future. If that does happen, she intends to work closely with local art and music programs to offer an educational element to the process.

Beaulieu and Gray hope to see those who do not have access to instruments step forward and show their talent, both for their own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.

“I just want them to have a chance to play, just like those videos you see … To see that happen, I think, will be the most amazing thing,” Beaulieu said.

For now, the piano sits in the Maine Discovery Museum, which donated its space for the instrument’s renovations. With all the required permits in place, Beaulieu is ready for residents of Bangor to enjoy their very own street piano.

A recently announced second project is also seeking to bring pianos to Bangor as part of the ARTober arts initiative planned by the Commission on Cultural Development. The Queen City Piano Project is being spearheaded by LaunchPad, and is raising funds to place pianos in city parks and public spaces in Bangor. The two piano projects are unrelated.

Shelby Hartin

Shelby Hartin was born and raised in southern Aroostook County in a tiny town called Crystal, population 269. After graduating from the University of Maine in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in...