Every Piano Has a Story

New piano in a little apartment

Every piano has a story.

I know this is true for other instruments, too, but pianos, by virtue of the fact that they are not moved easily, become monuments of sorts in a family’s home. They are valued enough that many pianos get passed down from older generations to younger family members, sometimes even if the new owners don’t really play the piano much. If you work in home care, this is good to know – you can always ask about a family’s piano story.

Our family’s beloved piano tuner/technician has shared some of the stories he has heard over the several decades he has been caring for these persnickety instruments. Some are sad, like the pianos that must be sold to pay for medical bills, or that can’t find a new home when the owner moves into assisted living. Other stories are happy, though, like when a neglected piano finds a new life with a young musician.

Our wonderful piano technician

Our family’s piano story is a happy one for sure. After my husband went through the ordeal of moving my great-grandmother’s spinet piano from my apartment across town to my parents’ house, we decided it probably was not worth the hassle (and cost) of moving the piano to our second-floor apartment across the state in Kansas City. I did tell him, though, that I would really feel that I had made it when I had a baby grand piano of my own, one that I could play everyday, use for teaching piano lessons and learning music for my music therapy work. I thought of this as a pipe dream, really, but my sweet husband wanted to make this dream come true as soon as possible. He is a champion at finding great deals on Craigslist, and soon enough, he found a family that wanted to sell their baby grand piano, simply because no one in the house was playing it, and they needed the extra space. Through a series of phone calls, we found our piano technician, Gary, who inspected the piano for us before we decided to buy. We had the piano moved to Gary’s shop, where he took the instrument down to its component parts, replacing the strings, hammers, felts, key tops, and probably many other important piano parts before the cabinet was refinished and he put the whole thing back together. We had the piano moved back up to our second-floor (yes, second-floor!) apartment, then later to our new house, where the piano now stays in a room much better suited to its size. Our piano is played everyday, and my husband and I both look forward to the day when our little girl learns how to make music on this beautiful instrument, too. 

I love sharing the story of our piano. My family has similar stories for my parents’ piano, my in-laws’ piano, and my great-grandmother’s piano that now lives with one of my brothers and his wife. These enormous, heavy, instruments/furniture are conversation pieces for sure.

So, what does this mean for you? It means you should ask to hear the stories of pianos.

Where and when was the piano purchased?

Who bought it?

Who played it?

Who else has owned it?

Is anyone playing it now? 

You might be surprised at the stories you get to hear. After that, maybe someone will sit down to tickle the ivories a bit (although they aren’t ivories these days!). Don’t know what to play? This video might give you a start. Then, all of a sudden, you’re having a great moment for music and memory.

Do you have a piano? What is your piano story? Have you heard any other great piano stories? (Or great violin, guitar, or trumpet stories, for that matter?) Please leave your stories below.


6 thoughts on “Every Piano Has a Story

  1. Nori Nakamura, MT-BC says:

    What a great story! I have heard lots of wonderful stories about instruments (piano, violin etc.) from my patients and their families, too! I bought a grand piano a couple of years ago and am loving it!

  2. John Lawrence says:

    I’m not sure if this is what you are looking for but here are some piano “stories of woe” based on some recent experiences.

    First, a story about a serious case of piano envy

    To begin, let me say that I must be the only MT who doesn’t own their own piano, not even a keyboard (but that’s another story). So, when I saw a new (to the facility) upright grand piano, in great condition, produced by the same manufacturer as my childhood piano (Heintzman), in the dementia unit at a facility where I work, I had to give it a try. Not only did it sound heavenly, it was actually in tune as well! Needless to say, it was a far cry from the “missing cabinetry, chipped keys, broken and/or missing a pedal, having been peed in (yes you are reading correctly)” upright that it replaced. I SOOOO desperately wanted to take it home then and there, to save it from a similar fate. After all, who would appreciate it more than a music therapist 🙂 Sadly, nothing I could say or do would convince the Manager of Rec. Therapy to release it to my care and attention. She did, as a conciliation, move it out of the dementia unit and I will be able to play it regularly.

    In contrast I have gotten nowhere in my attempts to gain permission to play a new 6′ grand piano (Yamaha) that was donated by a service club at another facility. If fact, only one person has been able to play it in the approx. 8 months it has been there (a professional jazz musician at a single concert). The service club even donated funds to improve and expand the small stage where it was located. The fact that I am a pianist and music therapist does not seem to influence the persons in charge in any way. Any ammunition that I might use to convince the “powers that be” to allow the piano to be played in a more open fashion (albeit by qualified individuals) would be appreciated.

    • Michelle Erfurt says:

      John, I’ve found that the least disputable way to open opportunities to clients is to connect them with the ‘powers that be’. When the residents of the facility ask for things, they get them without problems… especially when it’s something musical. 😉

      Great post, Rachelle! You just documented a leg of this piano’s journey… sort of like the Red Violin. 🙂

      • soundscapemusictherapy says:

        The Red Violin – what a great movie! Thanks for replying to John, too. I’m surprised that there is a piano residents aren’t allowed to play. I can see restricting children visitors, maybe, but residents should be able to play, I think.

    • soundscapemusictherapy says:

      Hi John,
      Those are some sad stories for sure! I remember a piano that was in the group room at a psychiatric hospital where I worked. It was a player piano that apparently was in pristine condition when it came to the hospital, but people had messed with the piano rolls and the doors in front of the mechanism, and it had taken some abuse from people throwing things, etc. It wasn’t in great shape by the time I worked there, but I do remember some folks getting some joy from playing it.

      I’m surprised that no one is allowed to play the new piano at your other facility. Why have such a gorgeous instrument if no one can play it? They aren’t *really* supposed to be monuments or mere furniture. I’m with Michelle – get the involvement of some residents/clients who are interested in using it. Maybe you could also draft some guidelines to keep it in good condition (e.g. no liquids on or near the stage.) Good luck!

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