A quick story
Noah loves playing the piano, and he’s really good at it too. I bought him a pretty old, vintage-looking Beethoven piano about 6 years ago. Since then, he’s been thriving at it. He plays beautifully and does brilliantly in all his Trinity exams. I’m so proud of him. Here’s a quick clip. He composed his own bridge from “Ballad” to Vivaldi.
He has lessons twice a week at school, and is supposed to practice every day. Noah divides his time between my home and his dad, Graeme’s house. Graeme doesn’t have a piano and it’s not an easy thing to buy. They’re really expensive.
The school has been nagging us for 2 years to get a second piano or keyboard as Noah is falling behind and not reaching his full potential without regular practice. They tried to make a plan and placed a keyboard in a passageway at school so that he could practice during break times. This isn’t always possible as Noah needs to eat his lunch and play with the other kids. It’s also really cold and rainy these days, so sitting alone in a cold passage to practice isn’t ideal.
I knew that his piano at my house is very old, but I didn’t realise how old until I got a professional to tune it. About 2.5 years ago, I found a man named Keith who specialises in dealing and tuning pianos. He came to our home and took Noah’s whole piano apart. He discovered that Noah’s piano was made in around 1920. I had bought it from a man who was clearing out his grandmother’s storeroom, and she had been a piano teacher. It sounds really romantic, right? A piano from the roaring 20s. All jazz and The Great Gatsby. Beautiful.
Except that Keith said it was very bad news. The strings are old and rusted and built in a way that pianos aren’t made anymore. He can’t tune the piano to 100% as he can’t tune it too hard in case the strings snap (which he said they definitely would). There’s a bunch of other things about its age causing problems, and he very politely kind of told me to get rid of it. He can only tune it to about 70% and because of the wear-and-tear, it tunes out very quickly again. The biggest concern is that Noah can’t hear the notes properly which will hinder his progress and ‘musical ear’ so to speak. I don’t know the exact terminology.
So we are sitting with a piano that is basically ruining his life and the absence of a second piano which he needs for regular practice, AND his school music department giving us a bit of trouble about Noah’s lack of progress in relation to his ability. Over the past year, Noah has threatened to quit piano at least three times in frustration.
He loves his old, 20s jazz-era piano though. She’s a beauty and he said he would always keep it in his home one day as it was his first piano and he’s had it since he was about 9. He can tell the difference with the notes in comparison to his school’s piano and sometimes cringes and shrieks or laughs when his “old lady’ hits really bad notes. He still gets to practice his hands, so it’s good enough for now.
I asked Keith to tune Noah’s piano again last month. As I mentioned, the upkeep of a piano is expensive and a call-out for a professional tuner isn’t cheap. It takes about 3 hours to tune Noah’s piano. Over the past few years, I had sent Keith intermittent videos of Noah’s musical progress. He showed the videos around to colleagues and said that Noah is a very gifted musician. He plays songs by ear, memorises his sheet music and learned Vivaldi Four Seasons (Spring) in like 20 minutes all on his own. More than that, I think that Keith could see how passionate he is about piano.
So Keith came around at the beginning of April to tune the piano as much as he could. He’s a really nice guy and he and Noah spent some time together – playing for each other, gossiping about his piano and talking music in general. He’s a really, really nice guy. Keith was more ‘angry’ at the piano this time and told us that we seriously need to replace it for Noah. I thought maybe I looked like a neglectful mom, so I explained how we’d barely received an income over the past 1.5 years due to Covid, alcohol bans, lockdowns, losing clients and tourism. He said that the kind of piano Noah needs is in about the entry level price of R15 000. Entry level. Then I also need about another R5000 for a second-hand keyboard for Graeme’s house. His professional music / piano lessons aren’t cheap, not to mention all the books and fees for grading entries. Piano lessons are about R2500 a month – if you’re interested. It can be cheaper if you split with other kids, only do once a week or only do half-hour lessons. Noah has private lessons twice a week.
Anyway, I still asked Keith to keep a look-out if he saw a really good deal that we could maybe save up for. I made him some tea, Noah jumped on his (slightly) tuned piano and was really grateful that it sounded a bit better. I messaged Keith that afternoon to request his bank details for his services. He was at my house for about 3 hours and I know that he lives quite far away, so there was a “tuning” and “call-out” fee. He sent me a message saying: “I’m not charging this time.” I was blown away and so grateful for his kindness. We stayed in touch and I still sent him the odd video of Noah’s progress and thanked him each time for his generosity.
On Monday, I got an out-of-the-blue message from him. He had gone to see some lady (Anne), and he forwarded Anne’s message to me. I’ll share an extract of her message to Keith:
“I would like to go with the plan to gift my piano to that family in Claremont. The little boy seems so keen and I hope would get much pleasure playing it. I shall leave it to you to arrange it all and hope that you can arrange a free transfer. I should sometime like details of the family and would visit them. Very many thanks, Anne C.”
Keith explained that it was a John Broadwood piano with a lovely tone. He said it’s in great condition and that Noah will love it.
It was my first day at my new job and I was in-between meetings for my orientation. I had a quick cry alone in the boardroom as Keith was messaging me details on delivery and transfer (all free) and we were arranging how to get Noah’s new piano to him.
We decided to put Noah’s new piano at Graeme’s house so that Noah can (finally, for the first time) be able to practice every week. Every DAY if he wants to. It’s really hard keeping him off the piano! He can still practice on the “old lady” at our house until we can put her in storage for him and eventually invest in something better. Maybe for his 16th or something!
When I got home last night, Noah was in the bath and I ran in to tell him the great news. He pulled this crazy, shocked face and sunk his head in the water in disbelief. He is so grateful. He phoned Keith to thank him and sent Anne (a complete stranger) the sweetest voice note in gratitude. I must figure out how to post it here so we can keep it! See if the below plays for you?
Anne replied to him: “Thank you for your messages. It’s a special piano for you Noah so take care of it. I got it when I was 9 years old so it’s been a good friend of mine! I will speak to you soon and keep in touch. Anne.”
I wanted to share this because I’m so grateful and it really shows that there are still very good people around us, with kind hearts and generous spirits. That lady could have got a pretty penny for her piano but chose to gift it to a little boy she heard about – a young boy with a genuine passion for the piano who needed a bit of help.
It’s being delivered soon and Noah is so excited. We’re all so grateful and overwhelmed. The world looks beautiful today.