The Winner Tips His Hat to the Hatter and Billy Joel

Dan Scinto as "The Piano Man"

Laguna Beach resident Dan Scinto tied for first place in Pacific Symphony’s “OC Can You Play” video contest, where the public was invited to play and record their favorite tunes, from chopsticks to Chopin, on 20 colorfully painted pianos deposited in public places throughout the county beginning on Jan. 16.

In his film, Scinto, demonstrating a flair for tweaking popular conceptions, prances along Main Beach in an oversized purple hat, performs a magic trick, recites his own poetry and sings Bill Joel’s hit “The Piano Man” while accompanying himself at the keyboard.

“I knew that I had to come up with something different and fun in order to win,” he said this week. “I also had four objectives in mind: show people that anyone (even the talent challenged) can sing; two, bring some positive publicity to the city I love; three, help the city by supporting tourism and local businesses by generating sales and hotel tax; and four, incorporate some poetry that could be used with a course Quinnipiac University and myself are developing for some high schools.”

The symphony’s initiative to entice the public to reconnect with music inspired countless public performances, some of them the spontaneous tinklings of passersby, but also 80 individuals or groups signed up for time slots to perform over the 16 days the pianos were in place.

“It was so gratifying and fun to see that it really caught on,” said Jayce Keene, a spokeswoman for the symphony, which announced the winners last Friday, Feb. 25.  “Pianos are an instrument anyone can identify with. It turned out to be a big hit. It’s surprising how many serious musicians there are in Orange County.”

Scinto, 62, who manages real estate and is a longtime resident, also sponsors an English professor to teach poetry in county high schools with a high percentage of low socio-economic students. One class theme uses poetry in combination with other events or mediums. “I thought what better way to demonstrate this then a video like this?” he said.

The symphony received 27 completed videos of performances filmed around the keyboards, which, including Laguna’s Main Beach, were located from Downtown Disney to the OC Zoo.

Scinto said his video, “is silly and fun like Willy Wonka …but on a more complex level it is intended to teach that you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy doing it.” His kids did pitch in to buy him voice lessons. Alex Baker, a film school graduate and brother of one of the soccer players Scinto has coached, shot the video.

More than 4,500 votes were cast by the public for their favorite videos, which included one with performance snippets at each of the 20 pianos.

Scinto’s “Dan the Piano Man from Sunny Laguna Beach,” tied for first place with Aimee Lee’s “Moonlight Sonata v. Fantasie Impromptu.” Runners up include Clark Girls from San Clemente, Kevin Weed’s “Pianos in 2 minutes 30 seconds,” and Melee’s “The Masquerade.” Winners received tickets to symphony performances.



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