The soundtrack of Almond Street

Sandrine Er­dely-Sayo plays in her Al­mond Street home, where she has two pi­anos. MI­KALA JAM­IS­ON / STAR PHOTO

Don’t be sur­prised if you hear the en­chant­ing tink­ling of keys when walk­ing down the block in Port Rich­mond. It’s Sandrine Er­dely-Sayo, the pi­ano vir­tu­oso next door.

You might nev­er know that be­hind the non­des­cript façade of just an­oth­er Port Rich­mond row home is a kind of mini-France, com­plete with walls of mas­ter­ful art­work, the Eif­fel Tower, and the sounds of clas­sic­al com­pos­i­tion.

There, with melod­ies filling the street when warm weath­er al­lows for a propped-open door, lives the French-Amer­ic­an pi­an­ist and com­poser Sandrine Er­dely-Sayo. The Eif­fel Tower in her house, a rep­lica of her nat­ive coun­try, is in the form of a tiny fig­ur­ine, but the art­work that hangs on her walls is her own cre­ation, as is her most power­ful cre­ation — mu­sic.

Er­dely-Sayo’s ac­col­ades and cre­den­tials as a pi­an­ist are many. She began study­ing pi­ano at age four un­der Michèle Puig, the god­daugh­ter of pree­m­in­ent cel­list Pablo Cas­als, and said she could read mu­sic be­fore she could read books. She won first place in Par­is’ Bel­lan Com­pet­i­tion at age 10, and be­came the young­est re­cip­i­ent of the French Min­istry of Cul­ture Prize at 13. She’s gone on to per­form and win awards in Italy, Spain and Ar­gen­tina.

All the while, she said her moth­er, who now lives with her in Port Rich­mond, was her cham­pi­on.

“You need the right moth­er to sup­port you, the sens­it­iv­ity of the artist,” she said. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re over­sens­it­ive.’ But you can­not be a ro­bot and play Chop­in.”

Er­dely-Sayo also teaches at the Temple Uni­versity Mu­sic Pre­par­at­ory school, and at The Lawrenceville School in New Jer­sey.

This sum­mer, she will per­form at Swarth­more Col­lege in Ju­ly, and at an Au­gust fest­iv­al in Rich­mond, Va. In March 2014, she’ll play at Carne­gie Hall in New York.

In Oc­to­ber last year, she fin­ished her most re­cent re­cor­ded work, “Platero Y Yo,” a re­cord­ing of mu­sic and nar­ra­tion in­spired by and based on the book of the same name by Juan Ramón Jim&ea­cute;nez.

For the re­cord­ing, Er­dely-Sayo com­posed and plays the mu­sic, and Eliza­beth Peña nar­rates. The goal of the re­cord­ing, she said, is “to cre­ate a fu­sion between mu­sic and lit­er­at­ure, to ex­pose lit­er­at­ure through mu­sic and mu­sic through lit­er­at­ure.”

Er­dely-Sayo was born in the south of France and moved to Port Rich­mond in 2007, after she lived else­where in the city. She first came to the United States in 1990 to study with Susan Starr at the Uni­versity of the Arts. Her bright and ex­quis­itely dec­or­ated Al­mond Street home was the right choice for her for a couple reas­ons: the house had, she said, a “good en­ergy,” and, it was one of the only places where she could get her two pi­anos through the door.

The street names in Port Rich­mond, she said, were also a sign that the neigh­bor­hood was a per­fect fit.

“I had a friend named Dr. Sal­mon, who told me, ‘If I die, there is al­ways something that will con­nect us,’” she said. Sure enough, when she was check­ing out the neigh­bor­hood, she saw the sign for nearby Sal­mon Street. She was also pre­par­ing for a piece at the time called, “The Al­mond Trees.”

“It fits,” she said she thought at that mo­ment.

Her home is also close by Powers Park, and it’s a touch of nature she said she needs in or­der to feel in­spired as an artist. The most in­spir­ing place she’s ever been, she said, is Se­dona, Ar­iz., and shelves in her home are filled with little pieces of rock and quartz from Se­dona.

She said she loves to eat at the Mer­cer Caf&ea­cute; and Hinge Caf&ea­cute; in the neigh­bor­hood, and ap­pre­ci­ates Phil­adelphia be­cause it con­nects her in many ways to Par­is.

“The City Hall in Phil­adelphia is like the City Hall in Par­is,” she said. “The [Ben­jamin Frank­lin] Park­way, with all the flags, it’s like the Champs-&Ea­cute;lys&ea­cute;es. The Rod­in Mu­seum also…a lot of places [in Phil­adelphia] are like Par­is.”

In the little free time she has, Er­dely-Sayo said she likes to play golf, and com­pares it to pi­ano play­ing.

“The way you at­tack a note, the pre­ci­sion in the at­tack, it’s the same in golf. You have to have pre­ci­sion in golf, it’s the same with pi­ano.”

She also is an avid read­er and writer, and speaks not only French and Eng­lish, but Span­ish and some Hebrew.

In Port Rich­mond, Er­dely-Sayo said her neigh­bors are friendly, talk­at­ive people who look after each oth­er. Her next-door neigh­bors, she said, have nev­er com­plained about her mu­sic, which she some­times prac­tices up to six hours per day.

“If they don’t hear me for a while, people say, ‘Why didn’t you prac­tice?’” she said. “Once, people saw my shades were down for a few days, and came by to ask if I was okay.”

Whatever Er­dely-Sayo is up to, you can count on the fact that as long as she’s liv­ing on Al­mond Street, her open door and win­dows will provide the street’s stir­ring soundtrack.

“When I can’t con­nect with my mu­sic, it’s like I’m sick,” she said. “Hu­man be­ings need a brain, and heart and lungs to live. I need mu­sic to breathe.”

Learn more about Sandrine Er­dely-Sayo at­ and­

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­

You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus