See This Gala's Interactive Musical Centerpieces

National Sawdust's annual spring gala featured centerpieces with a variety of eclectic instruments for guests to play.

By Ian Zelaya May 24, 2017, 12:34 PM EDT

Photo: Zach Hilty/

While there are many alternatives to traditional floral centerpieces, the decor is rarely created to provide an interactive element for event attendees. But recently, an annual New York gala did just that by offering guests the chance to play music with centerpieces at dinner. 

Nonprofit Brooklyn-based venue National Sawdust hosted its third annual spring gala on May 3 at Gotham Hall to raise funds for its mission, which focuses on building new audiences for classical music by providing resources and programmatic support to established and emerging artists. The seated-dinner portion of the gala showcased rotating centerpieces dubbed “Lazy Susannaphones.”

Mark Stewart, a composer, instrumentalist, and vocalist—and the music director for Paul Simon—designed the round centerpieces, which were 20 inches in diameter and offered a variety of instruments that guests could play. Instruments included a squeaker, a contra-done, a spring band, three prepared monochords, a pocket steel pan drum, a sump pump tube washboard as part of the rhythm kit, and a wee boing, which is a version of the African musical instrument mbira.

The musical centerpieces are available to be rented for events through National Sawdust. 

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