MIAMI (CBS4) – The grand piano that mysteriously appeared on a sandbar in Biscayne Bay earlier this month, capturing international attention and wonder, is no longer a mystery. It was put there by a brainy, artsy Miami Shores teenager who planned to use it in a video.
“I just wanted to create a whimsical, surreal experience for the average boater,” 16 year-old Nicholas Harrington told CBS4’s Gary Nelson Thursday. “It wasn’t meant to harm anyone. If anything, it’s just a marker so you don’t run aground in your boat.”
Harrington, a student at the MAST Academy on Virginia Key, hoped to use the piano-meets-bay images to produce a video to help gain admission to an exclusive college that he hopes to attend in New York.
“It’s just to create an unexpected smile on someone’s face,” Harrington said of the “piano bar” on the bay.
The piano had been used as a prop in a movie. Harrington’s father is a film and television producer. The non-functioning instrument had been stored for years in a family garage.
New Years Eve, Harrington’s family hosted a party at their home in Miami Shores and the piano was dragged out and set afire in the back yard that sits on a canal with access to the bay.
“We knew we were going to burn the piano, and we decided to do it on New Years Eve because we had a big audience. It was a spectacle.”
The morning after the fiery spectacle, Harrington, his father, brother, and a friend hoisted the piano onto the family boat and trundled it out to its resting place on the sandbar.
“I thought it was an awesome idea,” said the friend, Julian Kolevris-Roots. “It was a statement that included art and nature. It was cool.”
The “awesome idea” drew world-wide awe. Images of the piano perched in the bay were published and broadcast internationally and were marveled over on network television morning news shows.
Harrington said he had no idea his piano in the bay would cause such a stir. TV news crews were literally bumping into each other at his home Thursday.
“There are photographers taking pictures of photographers,” Harrington chuckled.
Harrington’s mother said she was proud of her sons’ art and physics skills.
“It was an art project in their mind,” Annabel Delgado-Harrington said. “They first thought about hanging it from a tree.”
Delgado-Harrington said the “beauty” of the piano in the bay had brought “positive” attention to Miami, helping the city’s “magical” image.
“It’s fun that it put Miami on the map,” she said. “There’s a sort of playful quality about it that belongs in Miami.”
Harrington said he hoped the piano remains where it is and eventually becomes a part of the ecosystem. “It could be a natural – or I guess an artificial – reef,” he said.
That is not to be, however. Late Thursday afternoon, a commercial towboat removed the piano from the sandbar.
The man who retrieved the boat was Miami resident Joe Bentulan. He said his son saw the piano on television and asked him to rescue it.
“He asked me for two days is anybody going to rescue it. The third day he asked are you going to rescue it. So, I said yeah Liam we’ll rescue it,” says Carl Bentulan. “He came up with an idea today to use it since it was left for dead as a symbol of hope.”
Liam Bentulan already has big plans for the dilapidated piano.
“I’m just trying to help and save it and have a second chance to live,” says Liam. “I’ll let everyone at school put notes in it and then I’ll see what they said.”
Carl Bentulan says he will then refurbish the piano and put it on tour.
“It’s the most famous piano in the world,” he said, noting that he paid a “couple thousand dollars” for Towboat USA to complete the job.
Nicholas Harrington said he doesn’t know if he might be in trouble with government officials. “I haven’t gotten a call yet,” he said.
Harrington’s mother said she felt “very sad” that the story of how the piano got in the bay became public.
“I thought that the power of the mystery – of the piano just appearing there – was much more alluring,” she said.