Steinway Piano Restoration Project Has A Mystery

Submitted photos. Fort School High School Choral Director Meredith Reid leads a choir rehearsal Tuesday, accompanied by Pat Harry on the Steinway piano.

Fort Scott High School Choral Director Meredith Reid began a fundraising project to restore the school’s 1925 Model L Heirloom¬† Steinway piano last summer.

The cost of the restoration is $30,000, and Reid’s fundraising has secured $15,000 so far.

“We could get rid of this and get another piano of lesser value,” Reid said. “But this is such a gem.”

The piano is not stuck away in a corner somewhere.

“We use it every day,” Reid said. “We have over 100 high school kids in the choir and we have choir every day. These students are who it is impacting.”

“Pat Harry is our accompanist, she is the best of the best,” Reid said. “Really she is more than that. She is a collaborator both musically and educationally. It’s appropriate to give her the best.”

The high school orchestra class also uses the piano and students use it for practice after school, especially at this time of the year, music contest season.

“It’s a testament to our community and our program to have a Steinway,” Reid said.

The Steinway piano has been in the school district for over 40 years.

There is a mystery surrounding the origins of the piano because no one knows who donated it to the school.

“I talked to Allan Drake (the school’s former business manager) to see if he had any file on it,” Reid said. “I then asked the school board office, they couldn’t find any documentation since there is no purchase history.”

“We talked to former music teachers Charlotte and Larry Swaim,” she said. “Larry knew it had been donated when he first started teaching in the 1970s.”

Whatever the origins may be, the importance to the school’s music program is invaluable.

“It’s an acoustic piano, which means it hits the strings inside the instrument which creates the sound,” Reid said.

It’s a “far superior sound” than a digital sound on an electric keyboard, she said. “The (piano)soundboard is solid spruce. You can’t recreate that in something that’s digitalized.”

“There is a lot more nuance for the accompanist,” Reid said.

The school Steinway is American made, with each part being handmade, she said.

“Each (piano) has a serial number,” she said. “They can tell you all the details. Steinway still keeps records of it.”

A piano technician visited the school Friday.

“He said the Steinway brand is created in such a way as to be rebuilt,” she said. “Not all pianos were made that way. The lesser pianos don’t last that long.”

“It seems like we are putting a lot of money into it, but if we buy a lesser brand, we’ll have to replace it because I won’t last as long,” she said.

“We have received grants from the Bourbon County Arts Council, Fort Scott Area Community Foundation, and the City of Fort Scott, she noted. “Currently, we are looking for more support from organizations, businesses or individuals to donate in any amount to the project.¬† The full project will cost $30,000. We now have $15,000 raised and need $15,000 more.”

Reid’s goal is to raise the funds to send the piano to be restored at the end of the school year in May, and “potentially get it back by next Christmas,” she said.

The fine arts are at the heart of our community in Fort Scott,  and restoring the Steinway grand piano will continue this legacy for decades to come in both the community and the school, she noted.

A brand new Steinway of this size would cost $78,400, she said.

“We need $30,000 to completely restore our Steinway. It will be playable for another 50 years at least.”

Reid’s phone number is 620.238.0673 or email her at [email protected].





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