A Siesta Key nonprofit formed to oppose the Big Pass dredge released a video to YouTube Friday, which is likely to make waves.
“Big Pass Piano” features Manhattan-based professional singer and voice coach Maria Lane Sulimirski performing the Beatles song, “Let It Be” on a Hammond organ resting in ankle-deep water on the Big Pass shoal.
The 140-pound organ was stuffed with foam so it would float and towed out to Big Pass on top of two stand-up paddleboards.
“If Big Pass had a voice, this would be it,” said Peter van Roekens, chair of the Boaters' Coalition.
The video can be viewed HERE.
According to a statement released by the group, the video’s intent is “to heighten awareness of the risks in fundamentally altering a natural inlet that has been open to navigation and untouched since it first appeared on charts in the 1800’s.”
Rich Schineller, a Sarasota-based public relations specialist, directed and produced the video.
A handheld camera and a camera mounted on a miniature drone aircraft — both operated by Jimmy Scott Jr. — captured Sulimirski’s performance. Commercial aerial production specialist Ryan Perrone piloted the drone.
The footage begins with a close-up shot of the 22-year-old musician at the organ, and then slowly pans out to reveal that she is, in fact, sitting ankle-deep in seawater in the middle of Big Pass, Schineller said.
“It was a beautiful day, the water was crystal clear,” Schineller said in March. “The whole thing went perfectly.”
The film crew also included Mike Hagan and Greg McDermott, who captained the camera boats. Diane Sulimirski, Maria Lane’s mother, shot still photographs of the event. Off-duty firefighter John Lichtenstein was the set designer and safety officer for the project.
Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce member Maria Bankemper launched Save Our Siesta Sands 2 in December 2013 through the creation of a Facebook page. The group, which recently became a nonprofit, represents a group of Siesta residents opposed to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to mine the Big Pass shoal for Lido Beach sand.
The group began raising funds to pay for an independent peer review of the Army Corps’ environmental assessment of the proposed project. Opponents of the dredge claim the Army’s data is flawed and has not been properly vetted by objective experts.
The Army, however, has said that initial modeling studies predict the dredging project, which is slated to occur in intervals over a 50-year timeline, will not negatively affect Siesta Key beaches or the navigability of Big Pass. The Army Corps has also claimed that it is premature to criticize the validity of its findings, since the final environmental assessment has not yet been released.
“How can you oppose a project when the data is not even out for review?” Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Milan Mora said in March.
The Friday release of “Big Pass Piano” is part of a gathering movement to oppose the U.S. Army Corps project, which comprises some of Siesta Key’s most influential groups, including the Siesta Key Village Association, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Siesta Isles Association and the Siesta Key Condominium Council.
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected]