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A Piano Story: John Ficcara's Baldwin Upright
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"The nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime."

George Will
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Posts: 10784 | Location: Williamsburg, VA | Registered: 19 July 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I can relate to that, except that my story is about a Wurlitzer console.

After we bought our house, I asked my Mom if I could have the piano at their house, the one they purchased when I first started taking lessons. For her, it was just a piece of furniture, as she didn't play.

I had it moved here and for a few years made occasional attempts to pick up playing again, but it just wasn't happening. I decided to get rid of it and found a place that would take it on consignment to sell. As the guys moved it out, I remembered what a big deal buying the piano was for our family, how we had all traipsed around to various stores to find the right piano. I had to stifle a "put it back, I don't want to sell it" as they trundled it out of the house. But I let it go.

Meanwhile....

I happened to see a watercolor at a gallery up in Door County. I bought it, and paid more than I normally paid for any kind of art.

A few days after we got back from Door County, I got a call from the piano store. They were apologizing because apparently that had sold the piano a while back but forgot to send me a check. The piano sold for exactly what I paid for the art. Just a coincidence, of course but it struck me as an odd one. I was overjoyed that it had found a new home, and that maybe some kiddo was learning to play on *my* piano. I still have the art and have enjoyed it all these years.

For me, it was a good trade-off.


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Posts: 31882 | Location: Somewhere in the middle | Registered: 19 January 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Some of them are still moving around town. I often get calls to tune a piano they just got for free. Too bad they skipped by a bunch of decent uprights and chose a fancy-looking spinet that wasn't great even when it was new...

I realize how much older I am. I once would get calls to tune grandma's piano recently moved into their house. Usually vintage pianos from the early 1900's. Now when I get the same kinds of calls, it turns out to be a piano from the mid 1960s!


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Posts: 6975 | Location: chicagoland | Registered: 21 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Awww. That reminds me of my first acoustic piano, that I bought in Japan after I'd been learning on a digital for a year. I found a used Yamaha U1. I love that piano so much!

(I might have written about this before, but maybe not...)

In the 9 years I owned that Yamaha, I religiously had it tuned about once every 5 months, always by the same tuner. He would let me know when he was going to be in my area (in the early years, he would always call and leave me a message on my physical answering machine that was attached to our landline telephone!)

Anyway, he would come to our house, tune my piano, and then I would give him tea and something sweet to eat and we would chat. Early on, I was too shy to play for him, but over time I started playing when he came, and we would talk about how I wanted the piano to sound. He would have me play whatever piece I was working on and listen to the style of music and ask me questions, and then he'd tune the piano, and afterwards play it for me to make sure I liked it.

The Yamaha sounded nice to begin with, but as time went on, the piano's sound changed and matured under his care. Back then I didn't know about these things, but in hindsight, I suspect one of the things he was doing was voicing it little by little, keeping the hammers from getting hard etc.

Anyway, when we decided to return to the US, I knew I couldn't bring my piano with us (they don't let you take pianos in your carry on, I don't know why) and so I was going to have to sell my beloved, loyal upright piano.

So I contacted my tuner to ask if he knew anyone who would like to buy it. He said he wasn't sure but that he often bought and sold used pianos, and so he would buy it from me. We agreed to a price and before too long, a truck came to take it away. I cried when the piano came into my house, and I cried when it went out.

A few weeks after that, I got an email from him. He said that he usually never plays the piano at home (not surprising, since he makes his living tuning them). His wife is a piano teacher (which I didn't know until that email) so he thought he would put the piano in her studio until they sold it. But when the piano was brought to his home, for some reason he decided to have them put my piano in his shop. In the first few days that it was there, he said he felt like he couldn't play it, like it wasn't ready to be played. Then, he started to play it, and he said he had been playing it every day since then. He said it had a special sound that made him want to play it all the time, he called it "my sound," of course I told him that was the sound he created for me! Anyway, he told me that he had decided not to sell it just yet, that he wanted to keep it and play it for a while longer...

That message meant so much to me! We didn't keep in contact after that, and at some point I actually lost the email account that I used in Japan (I think it was a Yahoo Japan and when I stopped checking it regularly, it was deleted, as I discovered at some point after it was too late). So I no longer have that email from him, unfortunately!

But after I bought my grand piano, I remembered my old tuner in Japan and I went online and was able to find him -- he now has a fancy website for his business and everything. I was meaning to drop him an email, but never did.

Maybe I'll email him now. Or not, it's kind of nice to just imagine that he still has my piano sitting in his shop.... Smiler

Keyboard Jam


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Posts: 15895 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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WTG, I love your story!!

In other news, a colleague here at the uni contacted me because she's trying to find a free acoustic piano for her kids. I said I would help if she finds a piano and wants me to look at it... But I'm not optimistic about what she could get.

Now, if she had a little budget, I could contact the guy I know who lives in the state next door, who "sells pianos as a hobby," and from whom I bought my Petrof upright (the piano I had before the grand). I call that guy the Piano Whisperer because he likes to connect piano with pianos that he thinks would be a good fit for them.

When I was grand shopping, he had a Mason and Hamlim (what's the size that's like 5'8" or so? An A? It was one of those) that I auditioned. I decided not to get it, but it sure was fun to play! Smiler


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My piano recordings at Box.Net: https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u

 
Posts: 15895 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
"The nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime."

George Will
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quote:
Maybe I'll email him now. Or not, it's kind of nice to just imagine that he still has my piano sitting in his shop....


Go ahead. I've always had good responses to "blast from the past" contacts.
 
Posts: 10784 | Location: Williamsburg, VA | Registered: 19 July 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
"The nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime."

George Will
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quote:
An A?



Wasn't that the kind that Monica Kern bought?
 
Posts: 10784 | Location: Williamsburg, VA | Registered: 19 July 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Re the article, it's hard for some piano owners to understand that pianos have a life span, and unless there's a famous name on the fallboard they are usually not worth rebuilding. And there were many middling makers over the last century. But it's hard not to get sentimental if you grew up with an instrument.


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“It's hard to win an argument with a smart person. It's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person." -- Bill Murray

 
Posts: 12592 | Location: The outer burrows | Registered: 27 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
quote:
An A?



Wasn't that the kind that Monica Kern bought?


Yes, I'm sure that's right because I remember when I went to go play the M&A, I had in my head "this is the same kind of piano Monica has."


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My piano recordings at Box.Net: https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u

 
Posts: 15895 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
quote:
Maybe I'll email him now. Or not, it's kind of nice to just imagine that he still has my piano sitting in his shop....


Go ahead. I've always had good responses to "blast from the past" contacts.


Maybe I will... If I do, I'll give a report! Smiler

Here's his website btw. It's all in Japanese, but check out the pretty top photo, so fancy!! Smiler

https://www.pianotot.com/index.html


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My piano recordings at Box.Net: https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u

 
Posts: 15895 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I learned on my parent's Baldwin Acrosonic console - built in around 1955, if I recall correctly. My first piano I owned was a similar Acrosonic that I bought from friends of my parents in the mid-1980s for $200--a huge investment. I was still in grad school and I may as well have bought a Ferrari in terms of cost and extravagance.

It definitely got the workout, from me and my friends. It wasn't a bad piano. Pretty typical of Baldwin Acrosonics. I am guessing that many accomplished pianists "of a certain age" learned their basics on those pianos. I kept that piano until I swapped it for my Pleyel in 2000 (swapped because I basically begged the dealer to take the Baldwin away, so I can't really say it was traded). My parents kept theirs until they day my mom moved from their house to a downsized apartment. It was totally shot, couldn't stay in tune, sounded tubby, had a cracked soundboard by that point, but it still felt "right." It was the piano I learned on and in some ways was always the benchmark. I still love the sound of a good Baldwin, and definitely like the light touch.

I have no idea what happened to my parents' Baldwin, but I assume it went to that landfill in the sky.
 
Posts: 34299 | Location: West: North and South! | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
it's hard for some piano owners to understand that pianos have a life span


The other thing that I did not realize was that, at least for adults who actively play, the first piano you buy usually isn't the last! I thought that Yamaha U1 would be the only piano I would ever own, instead, I have so far owned four acoustic pianos and three digitals. WhoMe

quote:
But it's hard not to get sentimental if you grew up with an instrument.


I'm pretty sentimental about my pianos even though I didn't grow up with any of them. It's a funny thing, to have a relationship with an instrument...


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My piano recordings at Box.Net: https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u

 
Posts: 15895 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
"The nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime."

George Will
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My first piano was the broken down Gulbranson my mother learned on in the 30s. I had no sentimental attachment to it. It was really bad, as I knew from comparing it to the grand I used during my lessons.

When I was 15, and seemingly getting decent, my parents sprung (it was a lot for them) for a "Howard" 5'9". I put Howard in quotes because it was really a Kawai ... identical to the Kawai 550 model of the time. That piano put a proverbial spring in my step. I kept until after I got my current Grotrian. Anthony learned on that Kawai. Finally sold it ... to my neighbor, whose son was also a fine young pianist who needed a grand for practice. The piano movers just moved it across the street!
 
Posts: 10784 | Location: Williamsburg, VA | Registered: 19 July 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Gulbransen had a factory in the town I grew up in. I remember going to the showroom there to look at pianos when we were shopping for pianos in the mid-60s.


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Outrage is warranted. But outrage unaccompanied by analysis is a danger in itself.

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Posts: 31882 | Location: Somewhere in the middle | Registered: 19 January 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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As a kid I learned on a lousy spinet, a “Bremen” — hardly a known make. I was so happy to practice on the better pianos at music schools and universities. But my brother was attached to it, and it sits in his home to this day. He even had the case refinished! And he doesn’t play!

I’ve had an old upright and a loaner Steinway, and a terrible Brambach that was left in our house by the previous owner, a rented Steinway (NY Steinway no longer rents to households), and a 1917 Weber grand (quite decent!) and now my rebuilt 1928 Mason grand. I only got sentimental about the Weber, but it was at the end of its rope, so it went to a guy in Texas who wanted to restore it.

Over a lifetime, there are more than one piano!


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“It's hard to win an argument with a smart person. It's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person." -- Bill Murray

 
Posts: 12592 | Location: The outer burrows | Registered: 27 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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