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3 ways that piano playing aids in one’s wellness

by Stephen N. Reed


Father and son at the keyboard
In recent years more evidence about specific health benefits from piano playing has emerged.

Over the years, piano teachers, parents, and piano students themselves have sensed a number of emotional and mental health benefits to piano playing.   However, in recent years more evidence about specific health benefits from piano playing has emerged, buttressing these subjective beliefs.

The piano has always been seen as a means of creative and emotional expression, along with the joy of performing for audiences large and small.  Now, in an age where wellness has become a priority for many more people, the tangible health benefits for piano students make it an increasingly more relevant exercise for young and old alike.

In this article, we will trace these mental, emotional, and physical health benefits.  By the end of the article, you will know how piano playing has value-added benefits that can undergird one’s wellness regimen.

1. Strengthening the mind

Perhaps more than any other musical instrument, the piano builds up the player’s cognitive abilities, strengthening the parts of the brain that are used in math and reasoning.  According to one study, just three years of piano instruction has a positive impact on a child’s cognitive development.

In addition, regular piano playing provides a workout for a brain’s working memory.

Hands on piano.
Playing the piano strengthens and calms the mind in several ways.

Other good habits like focus, perseverance, and diligence are improved by playing the piano.  Research shows that piano playing boosts creativity, too. Even accepting constructive criticism from one’s piano teacher can help a young person to become a more secure individual.

Additionally, split concentration, also called divided attention, is an integral part of playing the piano, which helps a pianist’s concentration skills. A piano student uses both hands, reads music, listens to the notes being played, and presses the pedals.  That’s real multi-tasking, especially for young piano students.

One study conducted indicates that children who play an instrument for 20-30 minutes each day benefit from their multitasking skills in education and personal lives.

2. Calming the mind

Music-making also has a calming effect on the mind.  Research shows that time spent at the keyboard improves mental health: piano players frequently experience less loneliness, anxiety, loneliness, and depression than their non-musical peers.

Expressing one’s emotions through a powerful instrument can offer one a much-needed release from the stresses of life.

A 2013 study published by the National Library of Medicine discovered that playing piano treats depression and alleviates stress.

Expressing one’s emotions through a powerful instrument can offer a young person a much-needed release from the stresses of school, difficult peer relationships, and other growing pains.

The sense of accomplishment that attends a young person playing a challenging piano piece is obviously one source of a healthy self-esteem.  Parents have long grasped this, instinctively giving praise and encouragement to their piano playing children, serving as their first “audience.”

3.  Improving one’s physical health

Father and daughter playing the piano
One study asserts that having music in one’s life on a regular basis has also been proven to reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and even manage pain.

You might not believe it at first, but sitting down to play the piano is actually quite a workout.  Fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination are sharpened.   Playing the piano also makes your hands and arm muscles much stronger than the average person.

Recent research suggests that older piano players can benefit from increased levels of Human Growth Hormone, which can slow some of the effects of aging.

Another study asserts that having music in one’s life on a regular basis has also been proven to reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and even manage pain.

Playing the piano can improve your overall aural awareness, as well.  Playing the piano trains students to recognize tones, intervals, and chords as well as helping them to develop a sense of pitch.

Playing the piano requires “an open and occupied mind”

Patrick Elisha of the M. Steinert Education Department has played the piano and other instruments for many years.  Recently he reflected on the wellness benefits he has experienced in playing the piano.

“Piano playing is an exercise demanding an open and occupied mind alike,” notes Patrick. “The very entropy that we seek to escape from in our lives is replaced with this incredibly complex choreography of the body, mind, and soul, a purifying and singularly-focused process.”

Young girl at Steinway Model S.
Piano practicing develops the stability and knowledge to allow one to be both grounded yet creative.

Patrick goes on to say that the health and well-being of any human being require both stability and the mercurial nature of the unknown, the latter of which helps one to be imaginative while heavily relying on the stable training needed to effectively express music through the piano.

In short, like a good piano itself, piano practicing develops the stability and knowledge to allow one to be both grounded yet creative.  One has to know the fundamentals of piano playing before one can improvise well.

“This ballet of sorts stops time, if one is willing,” says Patrick.  “With the right investment in time itself as well as the instrument being used for the journey, it can inspire and awaken the creative and curious elements inside us, all through the universal language of music-making.”

Different wellness benefits for different people

Different people get different wellness aspects out of their piano playing.  Some may need a creative or emotional release, a deep break from the stresses of work and life in general.  Others may want to develop multitasking skills and better concentration.

Whichever of these wellness areas you wish to work on, the piano gives you the opportunity to improve yourself while enjoying the challenge and fun of making music.

Come into one of M. Steinert & Sons’ showrooms and start trying some of the pianos for yourself.  One of our seasoned piano consultants will be glad to learn about your needs and interests to help you find the right piano for you.

Until then, enjoy a few more columns to learn about some of Steinway’s most inspiring piano models and the kind of piano that is best for young piano students:


An interview with Anna Avetisyan, 2021 Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame honoree

by Stephen N. Reed


 

Vivian Handis, Anna Avetisyan, and Ash K at the 2021 Steinway Teacher Hall of Fame in Astoria, NY
2021 Steinway Teacher of the Year inductee Anna Avetisyan, flanked by M. Steinert & Sons’ teacher-partner Vivian Handis (l) and Gavin English, President of Steinway & Sons (r), at Steinway’s recent celebration in Astoria, New York.

 

M. Steinert & Sons is proud to honor our Steinway Educational Partner Anna Avetisyan, a 2021 Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame honoree!   Only one piano teacher per region of the U.S. achieves this distinction annually.

“We are always so glad to see one of our educational partners recognized for their work with their piano students,” said Brendan Murphy, President of M. Steinert & Sons.  “Anna deserves this, and we congratulate her and her family on this rare and distinctive award from Steinway.”

Previously, Anna had won the 2018 and 2020 “Steinway & Sons Top Music Teacher Award.”

For her part, Anna notes that she is deeply humbled by this honor and just wants to use it to help her students reach new heights at the keyboard.

A family background in music

“My father is a cellist and my mother a violinist, and they both taught at the conservatory and played in the state philharmonic orchestra,” says Anna, who grew up in Armenia. “I grew up in that kind of environment. It was normal to have people come over to our home to play in a trio or quartet.”

Anna has followed in her parents’ musical footsteps. She started taking piano lessons at age nine and performing solo with an orchestra at age eleven.  Despite her exceptional progress, Anna says her parents had mixed emotions about her choosing music as a career.

“They weren’t wild about me becoming a musician,” she notes.  “Music can be very fulfilling, but they wanted me to be a breadwinner, too.”

Graduate work prepares her

Undeterred, Anna graduated from the specialized Music School in Yerevan, Armenia, two years ahead of the scheduled graduation date.

She went on to receive her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance with an emphasis in Piano Pedagogy from the Babajanyan State Music College, and her Master of Music in Piano Performance, Collaborative Piano Performance, and Piano Pedagogy from the Komitas State Conservatory.

Anna Avetisyan
Anna founded Through the Looking Glass, a chamber music series that focuses on bringing chamber music performances to communities in the Boston area.

Eventually, Anna’s career brought her to Boston, where she received a Graduate Performance Diploma in Collaborative Piano Performance from the Longy School of Music of Bard College.

Anna has appeared in concerts and festivals as a solo and collaborative pianist in the United States, Canada, Armenia, and Russia.

In 2016, Anna founded Through the Looking Glass, a chamber music series that focuses on bringing chamber music performances to communities in the Boston area.

Anna is an active performer in the Boston area and has a full-time piano studio in Burlington. She is a Steinway & Sons teacher and educational partner, and a member of MMTA, MTNA, and NEPTA, where she currently serves on the board of directors.

For nearly thirty years, Anna has enjoyed teaching the piano.  Her students have regularly participated in recitals and festivals in the Boston area and beyond, have won numerous competitions, and have performed in the prestigious Carnegie Hall.

“Music is not just what I do,” says Anna.  “It’s who I am.”

Teaching philosophy: Building confidence

Anna is truly dedicated to her piano students, as she knows what it takes to do well at the piano.

“I get completely submerged in a piece they’re playing,  and we may go overtime by twenty minutes as a result,” says Anna.  “My goal as a teacher is to provide a warm and positive learning environment encouraging the students to find their unique individual musicality.”

Building the student’s confidence is key, according to Anna.  “As they achieve confidence and technical proficiency, we are able to explore any piece with knowledge and understanding while enjoying it.”

A friend at M. Steinert & Sons

Anna credits her friend, Vivian Handis, for helping her find two exceptional pianos to use personally and for her students.  Vivian was a piano sales consultant with M. Steinert & Sons for 19-years and now serves as a teacher-partner for the company.

Anna has been teaching the piano for nearly 30 years, using Boston pianos and now a Steinway Model M.

“I went to M. Steinert in 2004, needing a special-sized piano for our home,” explains Anna. “I got a Boston 178 baby grand. I loved its warm tone–it was a high-quality instrument.  I’ve since had two Boston baby grands!  Students were pleased with them, too.  I have been friends with Vivian ever since getting my first grand piano.  I know I could trust her in every possible way.”

Now Anna has a Steinway Model M, having taken advantage of M. Steinert’s “Trade-Up” policy, where those buying a new Steinway grand piano will receive an allowance equal to the full purchase price of their trade-in piano in reasonably good condition.

Anna reflects on her nearly 20-year relationship with M. Steinert & Sons.

“I have always felt a very special warmth whenever I stepped through their doors,” says Anna. “There is always that magical atmosphere, being among the magnificent instruments. Even more so, there is almost a feeling of a sanctuary, a place where high standards and deep traditions are cherished, and where there is an almost familial feel among the staff and management.

“Everyone is caring, warm, and highly professional, and I am very grateful to have them among my colleagues and friends: Vivian Handis, Steve Hauk, Brendan Murphy, Chuck Johnson, Kayla Woodworth, Jonathan Tetzlaff, and many others.”

A place on the Steinway Teacher Hall of Fame wall

Anna (r) standing with her friend, M. Steinert teacher-partner Vivian Handis
Anna (r) standing with her friend, M. Steinert teacher-partner Vivian Handis, in front of the Steinway Teacher Hall of Fame wall which now bears her name.

Anna and her husband, Ash Khachatryan, attended the recent 2021 Steinway Teacher Hall of Fame induction at the company’s Astoria, New York factory.  She enjoyed meeting other inductees from around the country, hearing them discuss the same joys and challenges of teaching piano today.

At the awards dinner, each of the Steinway inductees received a certificate denoting their induction to Steinway’s Teacher Hall of Fame and enjoyed a performance by a Steinway Artist playing pieces by Bach and Ravel.

While in Astoria, Anna and Ash greatly enjoyed a guided tour through the factory, seeing how meticulously each Steinway piano is made.  She found the awards dinner and factory tour immensely satisfying.

Anna’s name is now on a well-presented plaque listing all of Steinway’s inductees into their Teacher Hall of Fame.  Anna’s dedication to music and her students remains the dominant theme in her approach to the piano.  As she puts it:

“The more you are given, the more you have to give back.”

 


What is a Steinway factory tour like?

by Stephen N. Reed


A Series of Pleasant Surprises

You’ve been impressed, even inspired by the sound of Steinway pianos at concerts or in friends’ homes over the years.  Their golden tone and stylish black glossy finish–it all speaks to you.

Front door of Steinway's Astoria, NY facility
Welcome to Steinway & Sons! The front door to the Astoria, NY facility is the gateway to a 500,000 sq. ft. piano factory.

So what is a Steinway & Sons factory tour like, you ask?

A Steinway factory tour is a series of pleasant surprises, beginning with your entrance into the factory.  Though attractive, the front door to the Astoria, NY facility is unassuming.  Upon entering, you’d never know that the building’s small foyer will be leading you into a spacious 500,000 sq. ft. facility, just minutes from downtown Manhattan.

So this is the place they build the famous Steinway pianos.

The next pleasant surprise you experience is the wide range of courteous employees at this Steinway factory. From the janitorial staff running the vacuum cleaners, administrators greeting you warmly as you await your tour, your guide, and all the Steinway craftspeople you meet on your tour–everyone is genuinely welcoming in Steinwayland.

Indeed, any notion that staff working for a world-class brand like Steinway might be aloof is immediately dashed as you go through your tour.  The craftspeople are pros and accustomed to visitors looking in on their work.  They can remain focused on their work while also engaging visitors on a tour.

“Treat every customer in a courteous and professional manner.”   These words, found in Steinway’s Standard of Excellence Customer Code, are truly embodied by Steinway staff.

By the end of this article, you will know more about the inner workings of Steinway’s Astoria, NY factory and some of the key parts of Steinway pianos that have made them the standard of the industry for many decades.

Each craftsperson leads to the next

Steinway & Sons staff member Cameron Underhill took our tour up and down the different floors of the Astoria facility, giving us an education one could only get by seeing this complex process up close.

Steinway & Sons staffer Cameron Underhill
Steinway & Sons staff member Cameron Underhill gives a great, multifaceted tour of the Astoria facility.

As we went through the hour and a half tour, the fact that a Steinway grand piano takes about a year to be completed increasingly made sense.  Each craftsperson, whether they are a woodworker, painter, or keyboard specialist is each part of a well-considered, systematic stream to assemble the next Steinway.

You feel like you’re witnessing the same process used 100 years ago to make Steinways–because you are!  Steinway still produces unique handcrafted pieces, finishing 3-5 pianos per day at the Astoria facility.

Except for some high-tech cutting machines, the entire tour is a rare and pleasant throwback to an earlier time in American manufacturing when the decisions made by highly-skilled craftspeople affected the quality of the final product.

Witnessing the Bending of the Rim

Steinway workers carrying the rim to bend into shape
Steinway staff carrying the Hard Rock Maple to bend the rim.

Our tour was fortunate in being able to see several Steinway workers bend the rim for a Model D Steinway concert grand piano.  They carefully glued several thin, 20 ft. Hard Rock Maple boards together, stacking them on top of each other.

After letting the glue settle, the Steinway workers then hoist the stacked, glued boards in the air, over their heads, looking like dockworkers as they take the rim over to the rim mold.

Seeing how the thin stacked maple boards are flexible enough to be bent around the rim mold, then clasped into place reminds us that this is the only way for Steinway to provide such a bent rim.  This couldn’t happen with a single board of wood.

But stacking thin boards of maple together does the trick, even as those boards later look like a single, beautiful, and functional rim. When we see a finished grand piano later, with just such a beautiful rim, it’s hard to believe that those bent rims needed to rest for up to 16 weeks to settle following that wood-bending process we witnessed.

Rim Bending
The Rim Bending process is unique to Steinway

So why all this fuss about Steinway’s patented one-piece rim process?  The rim plays a key role in supporting and enhancing the acoustical properties of the piano’s soundboard.  Its stability, durability, and strength together create and improve on the distinctive “Steinway sound.”

Today’s Steinway rim allows Steinway’s patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard to vibrate freely and to generate a truly golden tone.

Seeing how the Diaphragmatic Soundboard is made

Steinway's patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard
The patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard is considered the very heart of the Steinway tone, color, and richness.

As alluded to earlier, the other critical part of the Steinway grand piano’s acoustic properties is the company’s patented Diaphragmatic Soundboard, made from panels of close-grained Sitka Spruce glued together. The soundboard is thicker in the middle, tapering to its edges.

When passing through the “belly department” of the factory, we saw several light-colored wooden soundboards getting prepped for installation.  Each soundboard must be perfected before installation since the soundboard and bridge must be able to manage 20,000 pounds of string pressure while also producing a range of sounds, piano and fortissimo.

Steinway’s soundboard is known for its ability to respond to a pianist’s subtle playing to bring out their emotion. The soundboard is considered the very heart of the Steinway tone, color, and richness.

Checking out where the action is

The action in a Steinway piano responds to the touch instead of being forced into action.

The “action” of the piano is self-defining: without the action, there would be no sound produced.  The action in a Steinway piano responds to the touch instead of being forced into action.

A piano’s action refers to the slender, wooden hammers, covered in special wool felt.  These hammers are what strike the strings when keys are played.  Each piece of this mechanical part of the piano has to be tested by several different people to guarantee rapid, sensitive movement in the coming years.

These little hammers are the reason why grand pianos must have sturdy, huge rims and soundboards. Just as an automobile engine has a heavy case around little pistons firing hard, so must a Steinway grand piano rim and soundboard absorb and contain the sound the hammers create.

Tone regulation:  Sensitive ears needed

A Steinway tone regulator testing a keyboard.
Steinway tone regulators make sure that each key is properly weighted.

Tone regulation.  Here then was another fascinating stop on our tour–and one so different from any other facet of the operations.  The sensitivity involved in getting each key’s tone pitch perfect reminds one of the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”

Tone regulators note minute differences in weight with great skill, adding small weights to any key that needs it to have the right tone.  Tone regulators can spend up to 60 hours per piano, helping it to become a beautiful musical instrument.

If you can recall doing a delicate titration exercise in your high school chemistry lab, measuring tiny amounts precisely, that is similar to the tone regulators’ work.

Some tone regulators have such keen hearing that, attending a concert, they can recognize the tone of a Steinway piano that they adjusted years before.

Handcrafting skills learned in-house at the Astoria factory

I asked our tour guide, Cameron Underhill, about the training involved with all of these specialty craftspeople.

“While a background in furniture making can be a good background for us, most of the skills are taught here in-house,” says Cameron.  He notes that some of the work at their factory is very specialized.

Many of the craftspeople spend their whole career with Steinway.  Some are multi-generational craftspeople, who had a parent and grandparent working at the Astoria facility.  Pride in their product and the Steinway brand is an obvious aspect of their long tenures in Astoria.

M. Steinert customers welcome to take a tour

A row of finished Steinway grand pianos at the Astoria, NY facility.
The finished product: Handcrafted Steinway pianos have long been considered the standard of the industry.

While Steinway has suspended public tours of the Astoria, NY factory during the pandemic, M. Steinert & Sons customers can accompany our piano consultant to New York to see how Steinways are made.

Moreover, our individual or institutional customers can engage in the Steinway Selection process, whereby M. Steinert customers select their actual grand piano.  You try out six different newly-built Steinway pianos of the model you have chosen, then decide on the one you want to have at home or in your school’s concert hall.

Choosing one’s own, individual Steinway is an empowering moment for any M. Steinert customer, and we are happy to set up the tour and the Steinway Selection process for you.

Come to one of our showrooms to start the process of deciding which Steinway model is best for you.  In the meantime, read these articles to learn more about Steinway & Sons and their world-famous pianos:

 


Joy of Piano: Conversation with a teacher

Sight-reading with Cynthia Sanger

by Stephen N. Reed


 

Sight-reading: similar and different from reading a book

Steinert & Sons inaugurated its “Conversation with a Teacher” interviews with this look into the process of sight-reading, specifically a pianist’s first read of a new piece, with Cynthia Sanger.

Cynthia is the owner of B Sharp Musical Studio in Newton and is also a piano instructor at Brookline Music School.  Cynthia has lived in the Boston area since 1988 and has been teaching piano at B Sharp for ten years. M. Steinert is proud to partner with Cynthia and B Sharp.

Steinert’s Education Department’s Patrick Elisha explored with Cynthia a variety of factors involved in a sight-reading of a new piece.

Cynthia noted that sight-reading a new piece is both similar and different from starting a new book.  On one hand, both a musical piece and a book are similar in that they have a beginning, middle, and end.

But whereas book readers are discouraged from flipping ahead to see what happens at the end, a pianist needs to read over the end in order to anticipate what’s coming and to discern how each part of the piece ties together.

Some specific elements Cynthia looks for immediately in a sight-reading include the title, the key signature, and the meter.  “The length of the measures is important, as I try to figure out how I’m going to have the same number of beats in each measure,” explained Cynthia.

Cynthia noted that she also looks ahead to see any repeated themes and their variations. If the piece has a key change, she notes that as well as if the piece returns to the original key and familiar themes again.

For sight-reading exercise, choose a piece at a slightly lower level

Cynthia encourages those looking into a new piece to find one at a bit lower of a level than what they can play.  This avoids the student getting demoralized at trying to play a more difficult piece.

We appreciate Cynthia helping us to kick off this first “Conversation with a Teacher” at M. Steinert!

Please watch the full interview between Patrick and Cynthia or go straight to Minute Mark 15:17 for the split-screen of Cynthia playing Haydn’s Suite 54 in G Major.


If you are a teacher interested in learning more about working with M. Steinert & Sons, visit our Educational Partner page.

 


Do I need a Steinway if I’m not into classical music?

by Stephen N. Reed


Steinway is associated with classical music–but is not limited to it

People naturally associate the word “Steinway” with classical music in part thanks to the company’s endorsement from classical piano titans like Sergei Rachmaninoff and Vladimir Horowitz–both of whom were Steinway Artists.

Graphic of treble clef and musical notes in a circle
Steinway pianos can be used effectively in a variety of musical genres.

However, that reputation could give the wrong impression to many who are simply not into classical music.  They might think that Steinway pianos are somehow limited only to classical pianists, composers, and their particular kind of music.

In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the contributions Steinway Artists have made in other musical genres, including varieties of jazz, blues, and hip hop.

Since 1860, Steinert & Sons has been helping New Englanders with their particular piano needs. Moreover,  we have been a Steinway dealer since 1869.

Spirio: Steinway technology that jazz and contemporary musicians wlll appreciate

Many of our customers have had a wide variety of musical interests beyond classical music.  They have found that Steinway more than meets their expectations.  For example, when it comes to the Steinway Spirio self-playing piano, it is recording at the highest resolution possible.  Other brands rely on low-resolution MIDI files.

With Spirio, a jazz or contemporary performer will be working with the most cutting edge technology available for recording, playback, and editing.  Steinway has created a proprietary data file format that captures the nuances and full range of emotion from each artist’s level of performance, resulting in a heightened level of playback.

Many Steinway Artists come from jazz and contemporary circles

While Steinways grace the classical music halls across the world, famous jazz and contemporary pianists have also joined the ranks of Steinway Artists and for the same reason as their classical counterparts.

Photo of Jazz legend George Gershwin composing at his Steinway.
American jazz legend George Gershwin composing at his Steinway.

They say that a Steinway piano helps bring out their best music through its subtle range of tone and color, its strength, its sophisticated and nimble touch.

Well over 90% of performing pianists choose Steinway grand piano as their preferred instrument.  However, many think first of classical concert pianists when reading that stat.

Yet one need only remember that America’s jazz icon George Gershwin was a Steinway Artist.  The great Duke Ellington was also a Steinway Artist.

So were some of the greatest popular songwriters of the early-to-middle 20th Century like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter.  As a result, Steinway grand pianos established themselves as versatile, preferred instruments for many jazz and contemporary performers.

21st Century jazz and contemporary Steinway Artists

Today, the list of jazz and contemporary Steinway Artists continues to grow, again with leading names like pop icon Billy Joel and jazz star Diana KrallHarry Connick, Jr. is there, too, along with Davell Crawford, Adam Birnbaum, Lenore Raphael, and Connie Han,  among others.

Why these jazz and contemporary pianists prefer Steinway

Aaron Diehl

For Steinway Artist Aaron Diehl, a Steinway grand piano is the ideal instrument for pieces that include aspects of both classical and jazz.  With such pieces, a Steinway serves as a bridge between the two different genres, allowing them to blend together well.

Diehl talks about just such a piece he has added to the Steinway musical library, 15 Etudes for Jazz Piano, by Dick Hyman.

Steinway Artist logo
Jazz and Contemporary greats have always been well-represented on the roster of Steinway Artists.

“When most people think of Études, they think of Chopin, or they think of Rachmaninoff, of the great European classical composers,” notes Diehl. “What’s interesting about this set of Études, they cover 15 different styles of 15 different pianists. It starts with Scott Joplin and ends with Bill Evans.”

“And there’s a common thread through all of these études, and that’s a steady rhythmic pulse,” says Diehl.  “This is something that is very unique to jazz, the idea of a steady rhythmic syncopation that occurs from start to finish.”

For Diehl, a Steinway’s predictability, along with the uniqueness of each Steinway, make it an extraordinary instrument for jazz and other genres.

“With Steinways, there’s a standard of excellence that is always present with the pianos,” says Diehl. “What I love is that each individual instrument has very specific characteristics that differ from instrument to instrument.”

“Action is very important to me,” notes Diehl. “I typically like a moderate action, not too heavy, not too light, but one where I really feel like I have complete control over the instrument. I’m not expecting too many surprises in terms of evenness.  The treble, I can feel exactly how my touch is going to resonate with the bottom of the keybed. Same with the bass.”

Robert Glasper

A Steinway Artist since 2015, Robert Glasper proves the relevance and versatility of Steinway pianos across the genres.

Gospel, R&B, and Motown were all part of Glasper’s upbringing. Motown, R&B.  Glasper started performing by playing piano at his church. Later, he would join his mother for gigs on the Houston jazz circuit.

By high school, Glasper was building his musical skills at the Houston High School for the Performing Arts and New School University.  There he was influenced by rock, hip hop, and pop music.

By 2003, Glasper had performed in the bands of prominent jazz artists, and his appreciation for hip-hop and R&B allowed him to develop connections in those musical worlds, both as a musician and a producer.

Glasper could have brought his experience of these modern genres to any piano maker.  He chose Steinway.

“Steinway means individuality, perfection, personality, swag, diligence, and excellence!”  says Glasper.

Glasper has discovered what Duke Ellington found out a generation ago.

Come experience Steinway’s non-classical side for yourself

Sketch of pianist playing when blue background
Steinway pianos are preferred by Steinway Artists in a variety of non-classical genres: jazz, blues, hip hop, and rock-n-roll.

When a piano company can point to A-listers from every generation among their roster of artists, that makes for some powerful testimonials.

George Gershwin wrote some of his best jazz works at his Steinway grand piano.  When Billy Joel plays to a sold out concert at Madison Square Garden, he’s playing a Steinway.

More blues and hip hop artists are discovering Steinway’s value for their music, too.

But your opinion is the most important one when you are looking into a piano that will help you bring out your best across all genres, including jazz, blues, and contemporary music.

Come into one of our two showrooms in Boston and Newton to see if the action of a Steinway feels as good to you as it does to Steinway Artist Aaron Diehl.

See for yourself if you agree that a Steinway can bring out your best efforts as a jazz or contemporary pianist.

Aaron Diehl, Robert Glasper, Diana Krall, and Harry Connick, Jr. believe that you’ll like what you discover in a Steinway.


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How the Pandemic Brought Life Back Into Our Living Rooms

by By Elizabeth Ann Reed, January 8, 2021, Courtesy of the Boston Globe

(Ed Note:  We are honored to be able to reprint this wonderful article that appeared in the Boston Globe in January 2021 highlighting the timeless role of the piano in the home, especially during challenging times.)

Piano teachers like me travel back in time to the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries every day to teach Bach’s preludes and fugues, to reenact Mozart’s operatic piano sonatas, and to regenerate Chopin’s passionate nocturnes. Just a piano and a score are needed to transport us to living rooms, previously known as front rooms, receiving rooms, drawing rooms, sitting rooms, parlors, and salons, where these musical masterpieces often premiered.

In past centuries, this room served as the center of family life. It was for formally receiving visitors, for playing games, making music, writing letters, and reading books. There, playwrights presented dramas, authors and poets read their works aloud, composers and musicians performed — all steadfast traditions. Until the early 1900s, it was also a mournful place: viewings and wakes were commonly held there for deceased relatives. When “living room” originated is unclear; the term can be found in Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr.’s 1897 groundbreaking book, The Decoration of Houses. But it’s the Ladies’ Home Journal that’s often credited with popularizing the term in a 1910 article.

Then in the 1950s building boom, the addition of a family room with its comfy sofas drew the family in to do homework, watch TV, or listen to music on stereos. Basements became rec rooms with pool or table tennis. The living room was again reserved for formal visits, the finer furniture upholstered in aqua tones and smothered in plastic.

In homes without a finished basement or family room, the 20th-century living room remained a center of home entertainment, but the plays, book sharing, and music making often gave way to the ultimate entertainer — the TV. Students’ pianos drifted to sunrooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, even closet spaces.

Now, technology rules every room. Reading aloud occurs in the car with audiobooks, or as a solo activity with a smartphone and headphones. Authors and poets read new works at bookstores. Live music is mobile through hand-held devices. And the living room?

That depends. It’s the default room for larger gatherings, and now, during the pandemic, as office space for children and adults. It’s still the most popular place for students’ pianos and digital keyboards, though some of my students have theirs in their own place of refuge, their bedrooms.

Betty Reed

Even though I’ve been a crusader of using computer programs and iPad apps for teaching, my living room remains my refuge, where I teach my students, practice on my grand piano, and play chamber music with my daughter on violin and my son on cello.

But like everyone else’s home spaces, the pandemic forced immediate rethinking. When the COVID-19 pandemic first crescendoed last March, quarantine requirements pushed my colleagues and me into online teaching over seven hectic days. We drew on qualities required for our profession: creativity, fortitude, and patience.

The first week I bounced between FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom. Connections were spotty, sound was distorted, screens froze for minutes that felt like hours. By week 11, I had four devices connected — for Zoom hosting, mirroring a closeup of the keys, viewing online scores, and projecting the games I play with students.

Although I’ve been able to troubleshoot Internet and sound issues, the result is far from ideal. Technology hasn’t yet replaced the deep resonance that the wood and strings of a piano create.

But being forced to teach online altered my perspective. Instead of students entering my living room to play my piano, I was beamed into their living rooms, hearing them play on their instruments. Not once did I hear the perennial student excuse, “It sounded better at home!” I met their pets. I could assess if the bench was too high, too low, too close or too far from the keyboard. I heard the background noises my students have to compete with.

But most striking from this new vantage point was seeing that the living room has once again become the center of live performance.

For a piano teacher and students, the culminating event of the year is the annual recital, often held in a church or library. My late mother was also a piano teacher and an accomplished player, and I’m fortunate to have her piano studio available for performances — an open space with a cathedral ceiling and skylights, two Steinway grand pianos and seating for 60. Not this year.

I could have hosted a Zoom meeting of live performances, but I wanted better sound quality and no panic-inducing technical glitches. My students pre-recorded their performances from their living rooms or wherever their pianos or keyboards were.

My daughter produced a video to be shown on the recital evening. I recorded my welcoming and closing speeches, and high school senior tribute, all from my living room, and compiled photos of current students taken over the years for a slide show.

Did every student dress up? Was there an annual group picture? Did students race to the refreshments table to stack their plates with chocolate eclairs, mini cupcakes, and frosted brownies? You know the answer.

Then what did we have? We had a recital showcasing young musicians’ accomplishments, shared with family and friends, who followed along on printed programs and snacked on cookies I delivered ahead of time.

We’ve reclaimed our living rooms and other places of refuge to share life’s meaningful moments. During the pandemic, that’s more important than it might seem. In the end, we created the same environment of presenting music from hundreds of years ago — a wonderful, intimate evening of piano performances in our homes. W

With the aid of modern technology, we’ve gone back 300 years.


M. Steinert & Sons is honored to reproduce this work from Elizabeth Reed with her permission.  


Why I Play the Piano

by Vivian Handis,  Piano Consultant at M. Steinert & Sons.  


Many years ago, I realized that I only feel truly whole when I am in sync with myself as a pianist. It is the shimmering thread in the tapestry of my identity. Wherein lies the magic of this shimmering thread? Exactly why do I choose to continue to play, even now when I have a health issue that impedes my finger control?

I play because I love being a citizen of the piano world. I play because along with my workplace colleagues and community of piano teachers, I am deeply rooted in service to music. I play because I refuse to give up hope that I can still reclaim more and more of my former self as a player, as my inner pianist and musical soul remain fully intact. I play because no matter how long I wander away from actively practicing for any number of reasons, I always come back. I find my way home.

The magic of the shimmering thread is in the bliss of connectivity.

In our technology driven world, I totally appreciate the “ahhh” of connecting to Wi-Fi or any virtual platform. But the inward connectivity while for example, playing Bach … feeling my fingers and brain untangle together on the keyboard is sublime. The connectivity of producing a beautiful tone on a piano that satisfies my ear is delicious. Connecting with a person emotionally moved or inspired by music from my hands is pure joy. Revisiting repertoire as a touchstone, a musical photo album if you will, connecting across decades of my piano journey is bumpy but worthwhile! As I embark on learning an exciting new piece of music, I reconnect with hope. It illuminates my chosen path to keep that shimmering thread in place, and fills me with gratitude.


Vivian Handis is one of our Expert Staff in our Newton showroom.


Why I Play the Piano

by Patrick Elisha, Education Team Consultant at M. Steinert & Sons.  


Among the many journeys that we embark on as an ever evolving and discovering civilization, there exists one constant, one unifying and unmistakably universal language connecting everyone, everywhere. Playing the piano is my vehicle for accessing and contributing to this innate conduit, the language of music.

Having studied the piano and cello from a very young age and being born, raised, and surrounded by music, this life of expression and creativity, introspection and the merging of all energies is part of my DNA. I am grateful to have had the fortune of studying and sharing music with individuals which I considered to be legends, giants, and true interpreters of this craft.

That journey was accompanied, in part through many hours of practice and in part through performances and competitions on various stages, accompanied always by a Steinway. The Steinway piano has always pulled me into a special world when playing, hearing the warmth of the overtones and feeling the responsive and most intuitive personality of each unique instrument inspired me, from a young age. It is this gentle giant, the master of our repertoire, the purest from of what an eighty-eight key orchestra can be, that I believe ultimately drew me towards it as a life partner, even away from the cello which I adored.

To hear the space between the notes, to feel the time stand still, this is the journey that I long for, and the path that my Steinway and I will always seek, it is why I play.


Patrick Elisha is one of our Expert Staff .  He can found be found throughout New England and in our Damrell Service and Selection Headquarters.


Why I Play the Piano

by Jonathan Yourtee, Piano Consultant at M. Steinert & Sons.  


When I was four years old, growing up in Windham, NH, I wanted to play the violin! Sadly, after looking for a teacher, my parents could not find one that suited them. So, they suggested piano! Being an impressionable young child, I said of course, and I fell in love.

I started taking lessons from Stephanie Ratte, a clarinet teacher and piano player. My lessons took place in a church in a nearby town, and I couldn’t get enough. The piano I grew up playing was a Bell upright piano, built in the mid to late 1800s in Guelph, Ontario. It had ivory keys, and only had 66 keys! Don’t worry, I finally acquired a baby grand Conover Cable piano a few years later!  

After taking lessons from Stephanie for a few years, I took lessons from a few other teachers, but one really stood out to me. Dr. Zenob Nalbandian was an Armenian priest, and a phenomenal pianist that lived down the road. He was hard on me, but I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to push me to be better. I stayed with him until I went off to college.

I went to Mt Allison University and studied with Dr. Stephen Runge for a year, in New Brunswick. That year, I realized I wanted to be closer to home, and began attending the Longy School of Music of Bard College, in Cambridge, being coached by Dr. Hugh Hinton. 

Over the years, I have played clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, handbells, guitar, and many others. I have played in concert bands, military style marching bands, directed and played in pits for musicals, as well as many one off shows and gigs.

For 25 years of my life, I have had music as the focal point of who I am, and I wouldn’t change it at all. It is who I am. A player, a lover, and an enthusiast of music.


Jonathan Yourtee is one of our Expert Staff in our Newton location.


Why I Play the Piano

by Phil Schoonmaker, Piano Consultant at M. Steinert & Sons.  


Why I play the piano is mystery, miracle, memory, and motivation.

My mother had a beautiful soprano voice and often sang solos for church services and other occasions. She also sang popular songs and played the piano well enough to accompany herself. Undoubtedly I heard my first music while in her womb–both the sound of her voice and the sound of the piano. It is established science that the most significant sound a baby hears in the womb is its mother’s voice and that the baby can identify her voice in the third trimester. I believe even my taste in music began to form in the womb. Whether one plays, how one plays, what one plays may well be rooted in infant amnesia. This is both mystery and miracle.

As a toddler I would sit at the piano, push the keys down, and sing spontaneous improvised little songs. I would also listen to whatever vinyl records my parents had and memorize song lyrics. There was music on the radio too–both Indian and Western. My parents were Protestant missionaries to India during the final years of the British Raj and there was singing in church every week, both western Protestant hymns and choruses and North Indian Christian bhajans (Bhajan refers to any devotional song with religious theme or spiritual ideas, specifically among Indian religions, in any of the languages from the Indian subcontinent). So my pre-school musical influences were a daily blend of Indian classical, popular, and religious music with Western classical, popular, and religious music–a complex conglomeration of utterly different musical genres from opposite sides of the planet.

When on furlough from India at age eight by parents started me on piano lessons with a female piano teacher in Minneapolis. I don’t remember what I learned or how I did, but on returning to India I was privileged to continue piano lessons in my school with an eventual Grammy Award-winning vocal professor. The earliest piece I can still play from those pre-adolescent days is a Courante in the style of Bach.

At K-12 Woodstock School in the northwestern Himalayan mountains I was involved with all things musical–private piano lessons, recitals, church accompaniment and performance (hymns, preludes, postludes), youth Bible study hymn playing, musicals, choirs, madrigals, etc. On radio we listened to Voice of America, and on records at home everything from Rachmaninoff concerti to Mahalia Jackson gospel. Every night our family gathered around the old (no doubt out of tune) piano and sang a hymn in four part harmony. My piano teacher in high school was a former concert pianist from Johannesburg, South Africa, and my piano lessons sometimes exceeded two hours. I consider acquisition a privilege, inspiration a gift, coalescence a miracle; all three, in T.S. Eliot’s words, are “mixing memory and desire.”

When I eventually returned for college to the United States as a young man I became a music major for a year and continued to pay for private piano lessons out of my own earnings while in school. I then joined the U.S. Army and spent over a year in Vietnam. After Vietnam I continued college in the Pacific Northwest switching majors from English to Cultural Anthropology and finally to South Asian Studies, eventually earning a B.A. in South Asian Studies from the University of Minnesota. I continued with an M.A. in South Asian Literature and Languages, all the while continuing to play and study the piano privately. After college I needed work and started selling pianos in a store in Minneapolis. I continued to listen and learn. I spent many hours with piano technicians and piano teachers and professional pianists combined with a great deal of reading, taught myself how to tune and repair pianos, eventually making the piano industry my full-time career. I was driven by my passion for the piano as an instrument and my deep love for the music created for it over the centuries by the great composers. Today I continue unceasingly to learn deeper things about pianos, piano playing, piano pedagogy, piano history, and piano performance. I sell pianos, I work on pianos, I teach piano, I read about pianos, I listen to piano masterclasses from the greatest piano minds and listen to piano performances by the great masters of the keyboard. The Art of the Piano is endless and infinite; as Renoir put it, “There are two indices of genuine art: it is inimitable and it is ineffable.” Even though I am merely a serious amateur, this is my motivation, this is why I play.


Phil Schoonmaker is one of our Expert Staff in our Boston Showroom.


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