NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As we head into the new year with Omicron raging, we could all use a lift of our spirits.

Some New York City performing artists sang and played to an iconic song to do just that.

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CBS2’s Dana Tyler got a chance to talk with them about why they did it, and why we need it.

It’s a New York City song to the core. Forty five years ago, when Billy Joel wrote it – or on a day like today, when the city really needs it, with the number of Omicron COVID cases skyrocket, the nonprofit NYCNext put New York places and face in the video, in hopes of inspiring people to get involved and help the city stand tall again.

Joseph Joubert had the honor – and a bit of pressure – playing Joel’s omni-present chords in “New York State of Mind.”

“Generally, we piano players are in the background. We don’t get much play. So this was a moment of, well, ‘I’m going to get this moment. Let me take advantage of it,'” Joubert said. “It was, you know, it’s all the good things that could possibly happen for a musician.”

A Broadway pianist, orchestrator and Grammy nominee. The Harlem native was filmed at the iconic “jazz corner of the world,” Birdland.

“Obviously I had played the track in the studio,” Joubert said. “But then I had to go and replay it to myself and make it look like I’m playing. I mean, I was really playing it, but it was a catch that it’s some genius for, you know, videography and because they’ve matched me pretty good.”

NYCNext co-founder Maryam Banikarim says Billy Joel was gracious with permission to use his son, and that everyone on the project was generous with their time.

“Really, we’re all bound by our love of this city and the arts, so thank you guys so much for everything,” Banikarim said.

NYCNext formed in August 2020, offering popup performances in the city for an arts-starved public, while Broadway and the arts community were shut down by COVID.

“It’s a volunteer grassroots movement. It was like, out of despair comes purpose,” Banikarim said.

Pulitzer prize and Tony Award-winning musician, composer and conductor Tom Kitt produced the video, arranging who sings what, when and where.

“And also inspiring, motivating civic involvement,” Tyler said.

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“Yeah… I think it doesn’t matter how you want to support the city, whether it’s, you know, shopping local, eating at your local restaurant, you know, volunteering your time, donating money. You know, we know that it’s in coming together, that we win,” Banikarim said.


After you’re drawn to the video on the NYCNext homepage, Banikarim hopes you’ll want to support city service organizations. She says there are many ways to make a difference in this critical time.

Class of 2021 LaGuardia High School graduate Anais Reno has been performing with bold-faced names in well known venues since she was 10. From up high in Times Square, it’s the first time lip syncing for the jazz singer. She’s thrilled to be part of this all-star effort embracing a struggling New York.

“I think NYCNext was something that we all needed, even if we didn’t know that we needed it,” Reno said. “And so to put this project together and encourage people to help workers and help artists and all the people who make up the foundation of our community, as New Yorkers, and as people in general, no matter where you are, I think was so important.”

“What do you see when you see this music video?” Tyler asked.

“The thing that I’m most excited about when I look at it is that the pianist Joseph Joubert,” Reno said. “He recorded at Birdland, which is my second home, as corny as that may sound. And that club is probably the place that represents New York and its values the strongest to me, in my personal experience having been there.”

Outside Columbia University‘s landmark Low Memorial Library, baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell sang to his city.

“What did it feel like?” Tyler asked.

“It felt like the building. It felt big, and grand, and gigantic, and historic,” he said.

The Tony Winner is also chairman of The Actors Fund, which provides services for the entertainment community, especially hard hit during the pandemic. Mitchell’s glad he decided to be in the NYCNext video love letter, urging us to be part of the next New York City right now.

“How can people help?” Tyler asked.

“Whatever way they can, I think we all come to this planet with gifts,” Mitchell said. “And it’s an opportunity to use whatever that gift is that you have, it may be accounting, may be numbers, it may be service to people, it may be catering, it may be helping with food, it may be PR, it could be singing a song or presenting something or playing one of the instruments… it may be lifting people up in a different way doing something for your church.”

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“It’s amazing what we human beings can accomplish. When we all put our minds together to solve a problem,” he added.