Schaeffer Piano Co. gives church 'wonderful gift'
By Colin Harper Plank
The search has ended.
After several months of looking for volunteers, the Kensington Park Library’s 1920s Farrand baby grand piano will be repaired and refinished for free by the Schaeffer Piano Co. of Rockville.
The piano, donated by St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Kensington in December, has chipping paint and needs mechanical repairs.
“This is very generous.” Keith Fleeman, community librarian at Kensington Park, said. “It’s a wonderful gift to our community.”
After a story ran in the Gazette on April 17 noting the need for skilled volunteers to fix the piano, Schaeffer’s advertising consultant, Michael Cairo, thought it would benefit both the library and the company.
“It meets our public relations needs as well as the library’s.” Cairo said.
Founded in 1901, the Schaeffer Piano Co., is a family-owned company owned and run by Frederick Earl Schaeffer, 42, grandson of the founder, John Schaeffer. The company sells new and used pianos. It also offers complete restoration, touch-up and tuning of pianos.
The work on the library’s piano will take three months and 250 hours of labor and cost about $10,000, Schaeffer said. Schaeffer will also loan a piano to the library for the interim while he repairs the Ferrand.
Schaeffer said he plans to do a complete restoration to “put the Farrand in first class shape.” All the keys, some of which are chipped, will be replaced. The outside will be stripped and finished with 20 coats of lacquer. The inside sound board will be mended with new wood and he will put in new string, new felt and regild the bridge plate. There are more than 12,000 moving parts in a piano to check.
Schaeffer said the piano was built in a time when there were more than 300 piano builders in the United States. Now there are only two big ones left, Steinway and Baldwin, and a handful of little ones, Schaeffer said. Schaeffer said that after the piano is restored it will be worth about $10,000.
Philanthropy is something that Schaeffer engages in to foster music appreciation.
This year he donated a piano to auction at the annual Helen Hayes Awards, a Washington award ceremony which honors and benefits actors and theater companies. He provides free tunings and low cost or free loaner pianos for the Washington Ensemble, a District of Columbia opera company. Schaeffer also loans pianos to the East Coast Jazz Festival, an annual event held in Maryland every year.
“We have to keep music alive and we sometimes have to give things away,” Schaeffer said.
The piano had been originally owned by Ralph and Helmi Carpenter, St. Paul’s parishioners. They gave the piano to St. Paul’s when they moved to Florida in 1978. St. Paul’s used it for 15 years until it could not be used due to tuning problems.
Vera Ramaty, the children’s librarian at Kensington Park, found the piano at the St. Paul’s rummage sale in November and had it moved from St. Paul’s to the library. Ramaty said the piano will complement the musical programs at the library. The library host free recitals once a month for adults as well as numerous programs for children.
“They [Schaeffer Piano, Co.] really came through,” Ramaty said. “Now we can continue our programs uninterrupted.”
On May 1, the library held a dedication of the piano, with a performance by Hungarian pianist Susan Oroszlan and singers from St. Paul’s. The library plans another dedication when the piano returns in a few months.