With the answers to these questions, develop a wish list of target instruments for every space that needs a piano, so that you're prepared for those calls from would-be donors.
The music director and committee members will need to make sure that the pianos being considered are actually of professional quality and size. Entry-level and many mid-range consumer-grade pianos are designed to appeal to the home market, but won't meet the needs of institutions. Small (under 5' 6") grands, regardless of quality, are unsuitable for use in sanctuaries, concert halls, and auditoriums. The most common misconception about small grands is that if you have sound amplification, then size doesn't matter. But these pianos are usually designed for home use and do not hold up well in institutional venues. Their strings will start to break, they can't be tuned and serviced to exacting professional standards, and their case parts and hardware won't stand up to heavy use or frequent moving.
Pianos designed for professional institutional use are more expensive because their sound quality is closely tied to the acoustically favorable woods of which they're made, and to the sophistication of their design and construction. Prices rise with each step up in size and/or quality, as manufacturers include more expensive materials, better design, and more attention to detail. This results in the performance quality and durability needed in institutional settings.
If you consult piano technicians and/or teachers about what sort of piano is appropriate, make sure that they are specific about which models they recommend. Many manufacturers make a large number of models; some are home pianos and others are professional, and the price differences can be huge. And if you're buying a new piano, be sure that the dealer's salespeople know what demands will be placed on the instrument.
If the piano is to be used as a solo instrument or to accompany vocalists in a large space, I recommend nothing smaller than a 6' grand of Intermediate or Performance Grade. (For definitions of these terms, see “A Map of the Market for New Pianos,” elsewhere in Piano Buyer.) If you also expect it to serve for professional piano recitals, recording, or chamber music, you'll need a grand of 7' to 9'. If you choose a vertical piano for your main performance space, you'll need an upright at least 50" tall for adequate projection of sound to the rear of the hall. But be aware that the choice of a vertical eliminates the use of the space for serious piano recitals or chamber music. Institutions that have a great acoustic environment and a professional piano have become well known as recording venues. If this describes your hall, you might consider what needs your community has in this regard; your building could generate some income from its use as a recording space.
A grand of 5' 6" to 6' is appropriate for these smaller spaces and less critical uses. In the smallest spaces, a large professional upright will do. In general, a grand is more desirable than a vertical because of the better musical control a grand action provides. In addition, unlike with an upright, the pianist can see over the lid of a grand while accompanying a choral group. However, a better-quality vertical 46" or taller can be musically superior to many grands under 5' 6".
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