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Posts By: Robert Grijalva

A Post-October 10 Reflection

The events of October 10, 2014 will resonate for me for the rest of my years at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  On that Friday, the School offered to the world a reborn Steinway Model A once owned by George Gershwin, and generously donated by his nephew Marc Gershwin.  All the anticipation, all the work had finally merged into programs offered at Hill Auditorium that featured the works of George and Ira Gershwin, and lauded the partnership between the U of M and the Gershwin Archives. That Friday, the SMTD also offered a view of itself as a […]

Stepping Back and Taking a Listen

Word travels fast these days, and whether by Twitter or word of mouth, news of the Gershwin piano’s restoration has traveled “out there”.   I’ve been observing the excitement build, as during the past month faculty and students have poked their head through the open door of the piano technology shop and inquired about the piano, or requested a moment or two to try it out.  Reactions have been favorable, ranging from “Oh my!  How long is this piano?” to “Wow, man!  I can really dig this piano!”  Whether polite or hip, the expressions on their faces tell me a […]

Shall We Chat? Giving George a Voice Again

Piano technicians talk a great deal about voicing, it’s true.  Voicing, the process of tone manipulation  through the use of hardeners or softeners on the hammers, including the use of needles for poking the felt, is one of those topics about which one can devote volumes.   In the final analysis, though, it always comes down to the one question that matters most:  Can you make it sound like a Steinway? Of course, I don’t mean this in the sense of, “Can you make “Any Piano” sound like a Steinway?”.  I mean it in the sense of “Can you make this […]

So, What’s in a Signature?

Long since I was but a young boy, my older brother (and best friend) once insisted on the motto:  “There is no substitute for excellence!”  I think about that each and every time I put my marque on a keyboard action.  (Thanks, Frank!) There was a time when a man’s word was his reputation.  Even greater significance was put on his signature, or “marker”, as it was also known.  In piano building and restoration, the pride of one’s own signature on a keyframe, or a cheek block, is accompanied with the satisfaction of knowing that one has put one’s all […]

The Devil is in the Details

My piano restoration “brother” in the Gershwin Piano Restoration, Patrick DeBeliso, continually reminds me of the old adage:  “The Devil is in the Details”.  It’s a truism for so many things, and piano restoration is no exception.  Time and again, he and I have encountered “restored” pianos that have suffered from that one or two items, small as they may seem, that weren’t fixed, and yet have come to the fore and asserted themselves as a problem down the line.  The pedals, lyre, and trapwork always seem to fall victim to neglect.  Perhaps it’s because we put such emphasis on […]

The Gershwin Piano comes Home…again

On April 10, 2014, the Gershwin Model A Steinway came home to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance for the second time.  Their work completed, PianoCrafters engaged Piano Moving Specialists, a company out of Dearborn Heights, MI to deliver the piano to the Piano Tech workshop located next to the loading dock of the Moore Building.  The owner of the business is an affable fellow named Jack Carter.  He’s the best there is in the Metro Detroit area.  He handles every move personally, he cares about his crew’s safety, and he commands their respect.  The results speak for themselves; […]

Spring and Strings

It’s now April 2014 and we’re getting hints of Spring everywhere.  Aside from the welcome snowmelt, we’re seeing a little more green in the expanses of lawn across campus, and birds are chirping from the barren trees, claiming territory for the spring rituals of nest building and mating.  What a time of renewal! Such is the experience for the Gershwin Model A as well!  We now have strings!  And new keys! And a new hammer action!  It definitely is rebirth, a remaking of greatness. I visited PianoCrafters on Tuesday, April 1 to inspect the piano with its new strings, keyboard […]

The Soundboard: Heart of the Piano

In my earlier article about restoring an historic instrument, I promised to talk a little about soundboards specifically.  It’s a topic that can fill volumes, and goodness knows that piano technicians talk about soundboards a great deal.  Everyone has an opinion, of course, and that includes me! Of course, whenever the owner of a revered piano hears about soundboard replacement, there is concern that the piano won’t sound like it used to.  I think this is due to a certain urban myth about pianos and soundboards that gave rise to the phrase “the soundboard is the soul of the piano”. […]

A Legacy to Preserve; the thorny question of piano restoration

Original Keyboard and Action of the George Gershwin piano. Having received the Gershwin piano in the Piano Technology Shop in the Moore Building, the thorny question of restoration confronts us.  How does one go about the rehabilitation of an instrument that is old while preserving its essence?  We’ve had a bit of experience with this in the past.  In fact, three examples of what and how we go about the restoration of an historical instrument can be found right on campus.  The first is the Elizabeth Gould Hochmann Steinway Model B which is on permanent loan to the University of […]

‘S Wonderful! We’re Going To Get a Gershwin Piano!

The e-mail from Marc Gershwin began with a simple opening: “Dear Bob, I am pleased to let you know that I would definitely like to donate the piano to the U of M.” That’s all I needed to know.  We were going to be the lucky beneficiaries of a major gift; the last one of three pianos owned by George Gershwin, a long Model A Steinway grand piano that he purchased in 1933.  Wow! It wasn’t necessarily a sure thing.  The process began with an inquiry from the dean’s office about whether I knew any appraisers in New York who […]

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