The Secret Life of a Piano

I’m learning so much in this new life of mine. Y’see…I was never in showbiz before. I didn’t know diddly when I came to my present position (box office manager for a performing arts venue). I’ve always appreciated the arts, but that’s a long way from where I am now. Being a clarinet player, I sure never knew much about pianos. Until lately.

So, this is the story of the Big Black Piano, formerly of New York, now of Tennessee.

We didn’t have a piano. What!? A big-time performing arts center without a piano? Why the heck NOT? you might ask.

Dollars. It’s all about money.

Pianos are expensive. I mean realllly expensive. The good ones, that is. And, when you’ve got world-class pianists on your stage, you’ve got to have a world-class piano. So, for the first fifteen years of our existence…we rented. That’s fine, except it’s a hassle. And there’s only one such rental piano in town. Once last year, it was previously engaged when we needed it! ULP! I think that was the turning point.

So, we had a capital campaign. For $1,000, one could claim a piano key. Some people paid more than $1,000! Can you imagine? We didn’t sell all the keys, but with the generosity of our donors, we raised the $80,000 PLUS needed to purchase the piano and its little climate-controlled bedroom (more about that in a minute).

Renowned pianist Yefim Bronfman generously met our selection committee at the Steinway factory in New York and guided us in our choice. It turned out that for us, there was just one that would do…and it was love at first chord. We found our Big Black Piano. And, after months of waiting, it finally arrived at our loading dock.

In a cardboard box!

They deliver $80,000 pianos in a big cardboard box. I told you this was a learning experience!

So, they fastened the legs to it…set it on its little porta-piano thingy…and Richard, our Piano Tuner Extraordinaire couldn’t wait to start making it ready.

A couple of days later, our board came together for a meeting and welcomed the piano with a champagne toast. Even the mayor showed up. The Big Black Piano was basking in its celebrity.

What happened then? Now that we’re dark for the summer? Well, here’s the sad part….

The Big Black Piano was banished to the basement!

Now, before you start feeling all sorry for it, you must understand that it resides in the basement in a little room that was custom-built just for it. It is humidity and temperature controlled so that the piano’s little hammers and pedals and whatever else stay just like they’re supposed to be…perfect.

And just so the Big Black Piano won’t get too lonely and out of practice, one of several friends drops by now and then to tickle its ivories. Just to keep it smiling.

This is Chris. He was like the Phantom of the Opera down there, all by himself, making music in his own little world. He was having a grand time until I snuck up behind him and yelled “Boo!”

No, I didn’t. But, I could have, and it would have been funny.

Well, maybe not, since he and I had not met before that moment. Maybe the next time!

He’s really nice and patient and didn’t seem to mind my interrupting his practice session…especially when I told him he would be featured on my blog. Some people are all “oh, noooooo….” But, he was all smiles. And then he asked me to leave.

No, not really. Now he waves and smiles when he comes in to keep the Big Black Piano company.

The most important thing is that the Big Black Piano remains happy and ready to perform. And, when we crank up the elevator and raise it up onto the stage for its public debut with the incomparable Leon Fleisher, if you look very, very closely, you may see it smiling.

I know I will be.


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4 Responses to “The Secret Life of a Piano”

  1. noble pig Says:

    Wow, I didn’t know they delivered them that way…learn something new everyday.

  2. City Mouse Says:

    This is an awesome post!

    Well, I WOULD think so, wouldn’t I? In a former life (before directing and writing), I was a stagehand and lighting tech at a big touring hall/performing arts center. We had an enormous Bosendorfer that we always were terrified to move up to the stage when we needed it.

    Great story! Thanks!

  3. Gettysburg Mom Says:

    The cardboard box part cracks me up…For $80,000 you’d kinda think it would be delivered packaged in gold…

  4. milah Says:

    Wow! I learn something new everyday. Good job fundraising….if I fall on hard times I’ll know who to call!

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