I have some sad news, folks. According to the New York Times, the days of pianos are numbered. People don’t take lessons anymore, they don’t buy pianos, they don’t want the instrument to take up space, and, if they do want an instrument, they buy an electronic piano.
China has taken advantage of the lack of American-made pianos, of course. You can buy a new, quality piano, made in China, for under $3,000. My Kawai cost $5,000 thirty or so years ago. (Kawai’s are made in Japan, and they are my favorite brand.) With the price of a “Made in China” piano being so low, renovating an old piano is no longer feasible. Pianos do not improve with age like violins. As pianos become older, they deteriorate. Most pianos are virtually unplayable after 80 years.
Because of the size and weight of traditional pianos, disposing of them is becoming increasingly difficult. They are taken to landfills, smashed, and left to rot. Some people burn the wooden cases for firewood after gutting the instrument. Gruesome.
The advent of radios began the demise of the piano’s popularity. There was no longer any need to entertain guests with the musical accomplishments of the daughters of the house, as there was in Austen’s day. The final nail in the coffin was the advent of all things electronic. I love keyboards for their versatility, but they cannot replace a genuine grand piano. The “grand piano” setting on any electronic device will never come close to the quality of sound emanating from a Steinway, Kawai, or Yamaha.
It seems to me that piano hasn’t quite died in the South. There are several piano teachers in my small town, and we each have all the students we can handle. I’m trying to do my part to keep the joy of the art alive. Music has been such a prominent and fulfilling part of my life; I want to share that feeling with others. Even when I close the door to my music room/office so that I can practice without bothering my family, they turn off the television and listen. My husband and my daughters enjoy the “live” music, and they seem to love to hear me (or Gayle) play.
Life is good.