Dylan plays his masterpieces

By Becky Ward

<inline type="photogallery" id="9170" align="outside" embed="no" /> It's 9am and Wynyard Quarter is waking up. Restaurants are opening and commuting workers bustle around waterfront streets.

In his orange overalls, patched and worn from his job as a labourer working underneath the viaduct - gumboots beside him - Dylan Desmond takes a seat at the old upright piano.

His fingers sweep across the keys and the old wooden instrument comes to life. Passersby are mesmerised as they listen, watching him become lost in the music, the style changing constantly as he dives from one song into the next. Smiles and nudges from bystanders suggest they were not expecting to come across such talent on their morning sprint to work.

What they don't know is that the 23-year-old plays by ear, either repeating well-known classics and songs, or composing his own tunes as he plays.

"When I was 14 and in school, my music teachers tried to teach me to play the Moonlight Sonata by reading the music. I couldn't do it. I didn't want to read music.

"I just wanted to play. I remember the first piece of music I played was Toccata and Fugue in D minor, an organ piece."

Dylan is one of many  people who stop to knock out a tune on  the piano each week, but he has caused the biggest stir.

The public piano was brought to the waterfront to inspire a sense of community, based on the success of the "Play me I'm yours" intiative by British artist Luke Jerram.

The instrument was given to Waterfront Auckland, restored by local piano tuner Kevin Bennett, and painted by Auckland artist Krystie Wade.

Waterfront Auckland's place manager Karen Goodhall says: "The public piano attracts all sorts, from All Blacks to policemen, in an environment where anyone can have a chance to express themselves and entertain the public in their five minutes of fame."

Dylan had not played since he was 16 and at school. But since the public piano was installed two months ago he plays as often as he can, usually in lunch breaks and after his work shift.

His demeanour changes when he steps away from the keys.

He becomes more reserved and is humble about his talent.

"I'm not doing this for the money.

"I just want to be noticed. I want to do something that my uncle and father can be proud of. I want to have something that, in the future, my family can look back on and see that I have achieved."

Since he has played in the Quarter he has attracted quite a following.

"People come up to me and ask me if I get paid to sit and play wearing these overalls," he continues in his shy way.

"When I tell them no, they say I'm in the wrong job. I do enjoy my job, though.

"I was playing during the first night of the Rugby World Cup and a child put some money on the piano. I tried to give it back but he put it on the top of the piano again. When people saw this they started putting money in my gumboots. By the end of the night I had made about $200."

Dylan's love of music stretches far beyond his harbourside tinkling. He has installed a recording studio at his Ponsonby home and is producing his fourth album.

People may expect his music to be in a classical style, judging from his demonstrations of Bach and Beethoven on the keys.

"I actually listen to a lot of drum 'n bass and dubstep," he laughs.

"I compose all my music on the keyboard - there are a lot of electronic sounds in there and I use samples for the percussion."

He describes his music as a mixture of jazz, dubstep, dance, classical and drum  'n bass.

If there is one thing that he is certain of, it's his musical vision and his independence.

"People approach me with their business cards, singers and people in bands wanting to get together and jam. But I don't want to work with anyone else.

"I'm scared of getting involved with copyright laws and the legal side of things. I just want to make my own music. That is my dream."

- The Aucklander

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