"The most emotionally charged piece of furniture that there is." The president of the Houston Piano Technicians Guild wrote:
“How many of us have had customers whose piano was their long-ago very first special purchase, perhaps soon after their wedding as a young couple? Pianos’ lives often track our own. Our work as technicians involves providing respect and care for these amazing music –making machines and their owners, often across many decades. We are challenged to be creative, sensitive, knowledgeable and practical when the matter of disposal presents.”
Sometimes, families hang on every word from a piano technician’s mouth as they would a surgeon discussing the condition of a loved family member. More and more today, many of the survivors of the golden age of pianodom (1900-1929) fall by the wayside. They need more work to keep going than makes economic sense. This can be challenging as families are forced to let go of the family heirloom, the beloved piano. Some can be resuscitated by a dedicated company as a pre-owned piano and some cannot.
For numerous reasons, as pianos reach the end of their useful lifetime (normally 75 to 100 years) they wind up making that last trip to piano heaven as families want to believe. For piano movers it really looks more like a landfill.
It does seem strange to think of a piano as disposable, but a combination of repair or restoration costs exceeding the cost of a new piano, the increasing use of digital pianos loaded with bells and whistles, and competition for the after-school time of young people has drastically reduced sales of new pianos over the decades.
Normally, only a handful of famous brands retain enough value that restoration makes economic sense. Sometimes emotional ties will inspire families to restore Aunt Nellie’s piano as a keepsake; however, that is a relatively rare occurrence. With moving costs going up it is not unusual for old pianos to be abandoned when the family moves on.
In 1900 there were approximately 225 piano manufacturers in the US. Before radio, TV, or phonographs were commonplace the piano was the big entertainment in the living room. That means that there are many, many thousands of pianos reaching the end of the line in this country, many of them with histories intertwined with all manner of emotions, memories and wonderful stories.
We at Houston Piano Company strive each day to find loving homes for the best used pianos that still have lots of life in them. We are piano people through and through, and we do everything we can to keep our beloved pianos ready to serve new generations of Houstonians on their way to a wonderful, lifelong hobby.
Do you have a family piano story to share? We would love to hear from you as to how it affected your life.
Buying A Used Piano In Houston by Dave Smith, HPC Piano Consultant