Friday, February 27, 2009

Our Newest Adventure in Music

In December our piano technician heard a snippet of Evan's playing when he arrived to tune our spinet piano. He informed me that Evan had "outgrown" the light action of our spinet, and that we should begin looking for a grand piano to replace it.

Skeptical, I asked the kids' piano teacher if she agreed that the kids were outgrowing our instrument. She explained that pianists need to learn how to play all kinds of pianos due to the unpredictability of instruments available in performance settings and that she would be happy with whatever piano her students' families could afford. That being said, she relayed an incident where a judge told a senior student that he could tell that the student played on a small piano at home, limiting her playing on the performance grand. "Our" piano teacher then told me that, due to financial problems, a friend of hers wanted to sell a Kawai grand piano for half of its appraised price and was willing to take monthly payments towards its purchase.

For over a month I mulled over the thought of purchasing a used grand and prayed about it. I wondered if it would be wise to spend money on an instrument during worsening economic conditions, if the piano would even fit in our house, and if owning such a luxury would be pretentious. On the other hand, I considered the fact that, at twelve years of age, Evan was already playing high school level repertoire with Matthew and Sophie close behind in ability. Though Evan had entered the middle school years when many kids quit practicing, he exhibited no waning of desire to play. I concluded that a grand might be an investment in the kids' continuing music studies.

Finally, we had our piano tech evaluate the Kawai grand for sale. At first, he was amazed at the condition of the piano, considering that it was manufactured in 1982. Often pianos of that age have sustained a great deal of wear-and-tear or neglect. However, this piano had been well maintained over the years and played lightly. The tech had nothing negative to say... until he crawled under the instrument. He was dismayed to see a large crack between the outer body of the piano and the inner rim which should have been glued seamlessly to match. The crack had already traveled around to the opposite side of the body.

He sadly informed us that the crack had most likely been developing since it traveled from the manufacturer in the humid climate of Japan to the arid climate of Colorado. If the crack had been caught right away, it could have been repaired, but he doubted there would be any hope of remedy for such a large gap. He explained that when it separated further, the outer shell would buckle. Surprisingly, the crack had not yet affected the sound of the grand, though in his experience even minor cracks of that nature caused a piano so affected to buzz. In parting, he told us that he could not extend any hope for the piano and recommended against purchase.

Though the impending demise of such a beautiful instrument was bad news, I was thankful to have the decision against its purchase decided for our family. However, when the piano tech informed the owner of the crack and the consequences of such a flaw, she initially decided that, since she couldn't find a buyer who would buy a piano in such condition, her only choice was to trash it.

When I heard of the owner's decision, I thought it was a crying shame to dispose of the piano when it continued to produce a beautiful sound. James and I discussed the situation, praying about it, and then came up with a tentative plan to salvage some use out of the piano. We told the piano owner that we would be willing to make monthly payments, as long as the piano retained its playability, up to a cap in the amount (since the piano did not have long term worth) at which point we would own it and would dispose of it when it failed. The owner accepted our offer with relief that she would get at least some compensation for the piano, and we moved the 6'2" grand into our living room.

Sophie insisted that she would miss the light touch of the spinet and wished that she could keep it...until she actually spent time practicing on the Kawai. Now all the kids exclusively play the grand and the spinet awaits a new home. Though I will miss the lovely little piano that has served us well, I'm thrilled to hear the soaring range of the grand, and I love to see the satisfied smile on Evan's face when he plays the dramatic sections in his pieces. I'm thankful that we can play a part in the redemption, however temporary, of a quality instrument.