Greetings! This is the first in a series of articles I will be writing about family pianos. These wonderful instruments have often been handed down through multiple generations and are heirlooms that embody the
histories of the families who have owned them. It is our mission to preserve these family piano legacies and to illustrate how music brings families together the same way it did 100 years ago.
Every day when I go out on my piano tuning calls, I hear amazing family piano stories – how these pianos originally purchased by the great grandfather were handed down through the generations, moved from coast to coast, were played by concert virtuosos or by the grandmother who was a piano teacher. Remember, this was a time before TV, Radio or the Internet, when pianos were at the center of the social life. Nations competed with each other to produce the finest instruments which were all hand built one-at-a-time. There was a culture of pride in workmanship, which meant that these pianos would not only win awards at fairs and competitions, they would also last long beyond their years. The fact that we can restore these instruments is because they were built to a level of craftsmanship that rarely exists today.
Like the grandfather clock, precious jewelry and art, the family piano occupies a special place in our modern lives. We live in an age of so-called connectivity, a world of smart phones, social media, and online services. It is my experience, however, that we are in some ways less connected than we were when people gathered around the piano to sing and play. There is a two-fold value in owning and playing the piano: what it represents in our family history as well as what it can do for us (see our web page on McQuilkin Family Music Hour).
Every several months I will be interviewing one of our customers about their family piano story. I have personally serviced and done restoration work on many of these instruments. I have also sold pianos to first time buyers who are inspired to create their own musical traditions. I’ll be highlighting different brands of pianos and the unique histories of the companies that built them. I’ll share some of the secrets of how we integrate modern restoration technologies to bring out musical qualities that have lied dormant underneath crusty veneers, old rusty strings, and worn down felts.