Woods Piano

About this time he read Thad Carhart's The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier, and a dream was born. "I started dreaming about a shop like the atelier in the book, where I could sell pianos I'd rebuilt, but more than that: a cooperative business that would let me work with people I truly admire and respect, each doing what they do best--a community, a tribe, a team, based on character, based on love."

Andersen's dreams suffered a setback in 2003, when he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. "The first weeks of rheumatoid arthritis were scary, because I didn't know what was going on. And in almost no time it went from normal to where I was basically crawling." Andersen has taken an active role in learning about and managing his RA, and is now able to lead a relatively normal life. During these first weeks of his illness, Andersen also met his life partner and fiancée, Tanya Ragir, an artist and sculptor.

Andersen and Bellieu concentrate on rebuilding piano actions in Andersen's workshop in Malibu. Using German-made action parts and incorporating the latest techniques for achieving a perfectly even and responsive touch, they also voice the hammers to bring out the full ranges of dynamics and color possible from each instrument. Andersen uses the talents of Modesto rebuilder Dale Erwin for rebuilding the piano's harp--the soundboard, bridges, pinblock, and strings-and refinisher Phenoyd Ezra of Van Nuys for restoration of the piano's case and cosmetics.

Once the pianos are fully restored, Andersen brings them to his own version of the atelier--the home he shares with Ragir in West L.A. There, in a converted garage, he shows his own rebuilt pianos alongside new pianos by the renowned German maker Steingraeber & Söhne. Explaining his low-pressure style of selling, Andersen says, "I wanted to have a place where I could basically change the traditional seller/buyer relationship. I say to them, 'This is a love thing--it's about you falling in love with a piano. If you fall in love with one, we'll find a way for you to get it. If you don't, that's great. We have all the time you want to figure it out. So call me on my cell phone--I'll be in the house.' And I leave them. People love it."

From May to November, in the open-air courtyard between his house and the showroom, Andersen hosts monthly concerts featuring his pianos. "These concerts are all about the sound of the piano," he says. "The piano is always on the front edge of the stage. Around 80 or so chairs are right around the edge of the stage, and farther back are tables in Hollywood Bowl style."

 

FALL 2009 -- page 63

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