Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Muted (Almost)

In 2009, they closed down the high school I was teaching at, which opened in 1906 and had collected a lot of stuff over the years.

One of the things that was (almost) left behind, running the risk of lingering in the dust of a building that has been empty for two and a half years now, was a Steinway Grand Piano, which was in need of some serious restoration.

The principal at the school I just transferred to, who was also the principal at the high school, brought it up to her new school and got the faculty, staff and community involved in a fundraiser to restore the Steinway.

Last Thursday was it’s unveiling and last Friday the entire staff met in the auditorium to hear, and get a chance to play, this 1939 Steinway Grand Piano.

There are already plans for activities that will keep this beautiful instrument from staying muted.  The community did not raise thousands of dollars just to have it sit and be admired in silence.

We are now planning another fundraiser to build onto the stage so that it will have a permanent place in front of the audience, where it can be used at all the assemblies.

Because, regardless of how substantial and solid it looks, the music teacher told us that it would need to be re-tuned every time it was moved.  It needs it’s own place, where it can be ready to be played at any time.

Because a muted piano is just another table.


Alexia said...

What an awesome post, Max - your comments lend great interest and substance to the lovely pictures. I'm so glad the piano wasn't left to languish in the dust.

Max said...

Thanks Alexia, we're pretty glad to have it.

Lisa Shafer said...

Isn't that a baby grand, rather than a grand? The final photo has it looking too short to be a grand piano. Also, did your school not already have baby grands? I know it's a new school, but I would've thought it would've had a couple of baby grands. After all, even MY school, which is in a far less wealthy neighborhood than yours, has two old and battered but still very functional baby grands.
Or perhaps it was, in the long run, cheaper to restore this piano than to buy another???
Still, it fabulous that you teach in a place where parents would put enough value on music to contribute to this cause.

Bob Scotney said...

Glorious! The post of the week!

Max said...

Lisa - Not being musically inclined, I can only go by what it says on the plaque. There it is referred to as a Grand Piano, and seems to be historical because of the three people who signed it; Arthur Rubinstein, Percy Grainger and Grant Johannesen.
For me, it's just a really cool 70 year old piano that was beautifully restored.
Bob - Thanks.

Lisa Shafer said...

I'm sure it's a grand, then. It must just look shorter from that angle in the photo. Arthur Rubinstein sounds familiar, but I don't know who those other guys are. Time to do a yahoo search, I guess. Perhaps the fame of these people is what made the piano worth restoring.
I don't doubt that it was cool to restore the thing; I'm just wondering why it was done -- other than the parents at your school can afford this kind of thing. I remember, for example a whole stash of antique upright pianos at our old high school that were just stored on the old stairs and left to rot. And up at Old Desert Village, there's a whole shed full of antique pump organs left to the rats and mice. All those instruments are older than 1939. So why this piano? Maybe the signatures made it that special.

Lisa Shafer said...

Ah! From wikipedia about Rubinstein:
He is widely considered one of the greatest classical pianists of the twentieth century.

Yup. That oughtta do it right there.
The dude moved to the US during WWII because he was Jewish, but there's nothing about his touring high schools.

Okay, Percy Grainger was apparently an Aussie composer who liked reworked English folk tunes. During WWII, he got all freaked out about German invasions and moved to Missouri, since it was in the middle of the US and he figured the Germans would never make it that far if they invaded. After the war, he didn't like big concerts anymore. Wikipedia says this: He continued to appear at concerts, often in church halls and educational establishments rather than major concert venues. That's probably when he came to the high school.

The third dude was born in SLC, so that would explain how he got to the piano in question. He didn't die until 2005. Oddly enough, he died in Germany.

Okay, so now we have it; it's not that the piano is all that old or all that valuable on its own; it's the fact that it was signed by and presumably PLAYED by these famous musicians that makes it -- out of all the other rotting pianos in SLC -- worth restoring. Now my curiosity is satisfied.

Max said...

Great info, thanks. I just assumed they were somewhat famous (or local) pianists, but now I know.

Gilly said...

That is a beautiful piano - and I love the shots of the "innards".

Pleased its being used as a piano should be!