Most of us are – hopefully – happy or at least content with the way their lives go; chasing their dreams with more or less commitment. But what do you do if you feel like this just isn’t the way you’ve planned it, that there is something more to the monotonous everyday routine? Let me introduce you to the “world’s happiest man”, whose ambitions now made him a fixture in the parks of New York.

When I still lived in New York, Washington Square Park in Lower Manhattan was one of my favorite go-to places either for a coffee with friends or simply to take in the atmosphere: There would always be someone giving free advice on all situations in life, someone performing street art, someone dancing, or someone making music. I especially liked listening to a guy playing the piano – a grand piano, to be more precise – but would only learn months later about the story behind the “Crazy Piano Guy”.


The man behind the keys is Colin Huggins, a classically trained pianist, who moved to New York City in 2003 to follow his musical ambitions in becoming a performing artist. Even though he played for renowned institutions and even moved up to the position of Music Director for a Ballet School, he knew there had to be another direction for his life.

In the summer of 2007, he brought a piano into Union Square for the first time. Although he was no longer composing symphonies, he describes this as a bit of a pivotal moment: He realized he was able to bring joy to others and himself while creating a form of art at the same time. Since then, he has dragged pianos all over Manhattan – he even maneuvered a piano into the subway – and can be found most often in Washington Square Park. Huggins has four pianos in total and keeps them in storage spaces close to one of his favored open-air concert spots.


And there is another amazing twist in this story: While in the beginning Huggins performed on upright pianos only, many of his fans encouraged him to raise money for a better-sounding baby grand. So with the help of a campaign promoted via Social Media, Huggins raised close to $9,000 to fund the new instrument.


“My favorite part of playing outside is the freedom of it,” Huggins said in an interview, and it’s audible. So the next time you find yourself exploring New York, keep an eye out for him!

Photo #1 by A. Strakey, photos #2-4 via Andrew Henderson/The New York Times
Cordula Schaefer Cordula Schaefer is a photography enthusiast who loves to venture out to explore new places and hardly ever leaves the house without a camera. A New Yorker at heart, she is especially fond of city trips and has a soft spot for beautiful beachscapes. She currently bases herself in Berlin and keeps the visual documents of her travels at Cordugram.