by Sally Phillips
One day, a young mother and her toddler son came in to look at pianos. The mother told me that her son was three, but had started lessons and was very enthusiastic. Having seen many proud parents, and observing that the tiny child was indeed very young, I was a bit skeptical about his level of enthusiasm — until he started examining with great care all the vertical pianos on the floor.
The boy had a limited repertoire: one short piece that covered a single octave, which he methodically tried on each register of each piano. He was so diminutive that the keyboards were at his eye level. He was very systematic in walking down the rows of instruments, giving each one his attention, until he stopped in front of a vertical that I had recently prepped to go to a statewide teachers’ convention. He tried the piano with his little piece, said a few things to his mother that I didn’t understand, and nodded his approval. Lots of pointing made clear that he had made his selection.
Mom explained that they couldn’t make a decision until Father was consulted. When she tried to leave, her young charge was dismayed. He wanted that piano, and was most determined to have it. Most of his pleas were nonverbal, and included vigorous “no” head shaking and petulant body language. When she insisted that it was time to go, he sobbed and planted himself there, wrapping his little arms around the leg of the piano, and leaned his head against it, cheek to piano cheek. Wow, I thought. That, in a nutshell, is why we are here.
I was reminded afresh of the passion that drives us to love these instruments, of our excitement on hearing and creating beautiful sounds, of our joy at being able to convey our thoughts in music. Here, that passion had been unabashedly expressed as pure emotion.
He got his piano.
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Pianos are unique among consumer goods in the extent to which deciding whether or not to purchase a particular instrument combines hardheaded choices about price and features with emotional responses involving art and passion. For many, buying a piano is more like finding a marriage partner than like buying a refrigerator or washing machine. Selling a piano, too, has its special challenges and fulfillments: satisfying the famous client, the donated instrument that helped launch a career, the sharing of a touching moment involving the importance of a piano in a customer’s life.
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