The Surprising Thing About Pianos

By Perri Knize

Perry KnizeOver the many months I searched for a piano—and the years I struggled to reclaim the sound of the piano I eventually bought—I made a challenging discovery: the piano is not just a machine. It is a living, breathing entity. It has a soul, a personality, and how it presents itself to us, how it responds to us on any particular day, changes. In fact, pianos are constantly changing. The room warms up and they go flat. The air becomes dry and they sound brittle, and in humid weather they get cotton-mouthed. Since I was in search of a very particular sort of sound personality, this discovery was disconcerting and frustrating for me. But it was also intriguing. More …

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Johnny Costa’s Start in Piano

Blake and I were talking over your note inviting us to write about an interesting piano sale. During its 106 years, Cooper Music has had thousands of customers, many of them famous — from John Phillip Sousa to Elton John. Blake and I agreed, however, that the most interesting story is about a customer we did not sell a piano to.

During one of the Great Depression years, Blake’s grandfather, John E. Cooper, was approached by a respected local music director, Frank Oliver, about an accordion student, a gifted teenager named Johnny Costa. Frank said that young Costa should be taking piano lessons, but in those years Costa’s family didn’t have the money for a teacher or a piano. More …

A Three-Year-Old Reminds Me Why We Love Pianos

One day, a young mother and her toddler son came in to look at pianos. The mother told me that her son was three, but had started lessons and was very enthusiastic. Having seen many proud parents, and observing that the tiny child was indeed very young, I was a bit skeptical about his level of enthusiasm—until he started examining with great care all the vertical pianos on the floor. More …

What’s in a Name?

Dean Hathaway, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Towson State College, called to make an appointment to play our Yamaha CF concert grand. A few years earlier, we had rebuilt his Mason & Hamlin A. Now, for duet work, he was interested in adding a concert grand to his home studio. This was in 1974, and Yamaha pianos, imported only since 1960, were gaining in reputation, but were not yet accepted as fine instruments nearly as widely as they are today. More …