Piano-turned-bookshelf auction showcases creativity, funds learning

By Jason Winders
March 13, 2014

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PIANO1Jason Winders, Western News

An unplayable instrument has never looked so good. And now, you can bring it home and help out students from Western’s Piano Technology Program at the same time.

A year or so ago, an 1896 Bechstein piano was donated to Western with eyes on Piano Tech students rebuilding it into performance shape.

By 1870, Carl Bechstein’s pianos were in countless concert halls and private mansions across Europe. A quarter century later, when the donated instrument was created, Bechstein was the largest German manufacturer of high-end pianos.





However, Western never heard its Bechstein as it was meant to be heard. A crack in its plate rendered it completely unplayable.

So, what to do with a beautiful instrument no longer able to serve its original purpose?

Anne Fleming-Read, program coordinator, remembered seeing a piano-turned-bookcase project at some point in the past. It wasn’t a perfectly executed project, she said, as it was designed vertically – with the keyboard facing downward, thus obscuring the most identifiable portion of the instrument.

Inspired by that idea, members of Western’s program took it upon themselves to construct a similar piano-turned-bookcase, only on its side, showcasing the full glory of the century-old instrument.

“It is truly a beautiful piece of work,” Fleming-Read said of the finished work. “Simply amazing.”

The piano-turned-bookcase was built by the class in their limited extra time over several months, with the heaviest work completed in December and during Reading Week. Although unplayable, much of the original instrument remains, including its original curves, housing and ivory keyboard. The students added in shelving inside the housing to create a unique piece.

Starting today, the students are putting the finished project up for auction. The proceeds from the sale will help fund an eight-day journey to the heart of Steinway Pianos in Great Britain and Germany.

The auction is currently open with bids accepted via email to afleming@uwo.ca or over the phone at 519-661-3497. A reserve bid has been set at $1,000. The auction closes on Friday, March 28.

Based in the Don Wright Faculty of Music, the eight-month program trains individuals interested in becoming future piano technicians with graduates landing work in some of the world’s most-prestigious organizations and institutions. Students come from around the world to participate in the professional program.

Their trip across the pond will be a learning experience like no other, Fleming-Read said.

The trip starts at Steinway Hall in London, where they will meet with Ulrich Gerhartz, Steinway and Sons director of concert and artists services. The class then moves to the Steinway factory in Hamburg, Germany, followed by tours of the Steinway Academy and smaller manufacturers of piano parts, like the Abel Hammer Company.

As future practitioners of their craft, Fleming-Read said, this exposure to German Steinways will be invaluable.

The class has been raising funds in numerous ways – bake sales, jewelry sales – but the auction of its piano-turned-bookcase is the largest undertaking to date to raise funds. The whole project has been a tribute to the students, their passion and creativity, Fleming-Read said.

“The piano came in as a donation, a wonderful gift that we couldn’t repair,” Fleming-Read said. “But we have repurposed it, given it new life.”


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