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Piano Restoration: A Profession of Faith
By: Clint Hughes

I got saved later in life. The Lord delivered me from darkness to light in a dramatic fashion, and even though I was restoring pianos well before I was saved, it wasn't until after I became a Christian that God really gave meaning to my profession. I now find striking similarities to piano restoration and my life.

When a piano comes into my shop, you can tell right away that life has taken a toll on it. The finish is old, scratched, and faded. The action parts (keys, hammers, etc.) are worn out, so it just isn't a joy to play anymore. And the strings and tuning pins are so old that they barely hold tune. In a word, it is useless. That was my life B.C. The world had taken its toll on me so much that I, too, had no function and no purpose.

But the reality is, once that piano gets to my shop, it is inexorably on a path to resurrection. That path to restoration, however, is not an easy one for the piano. Old finish has to be stripped off, and parts have to be stained, sanded, and sanded some more. New tuning pins have to be driven into the pinblock, and then, in order for the case to look like new, it has to be hand-rubbed with steel wool to a satin-smooth sheen. I see my trials in life like the restoration process itself. It takes a lot of sand paper to form me into the image of Christ, which the Father lovingly does, despite my resistance to it. When the restoration process is complete, the piano is like new again, brought back to its pristine original condition and the glory that it had when it first rolled off the factory floor.

Now, of course, restoring us to the original glory we had when we rolled off God's factory floor (the Garden of Eden) won't be realized until we give up the ghost, or the Great Rebuilder returns. This side of heaven, we will always be in the restoration process.

Thus I work, and all my work is a parable. And what a privilege it is to work on these century-old pianos.  There is a parable here for modern churches to interpret, too.  As the church is made up of restored people, it's only natural that it is a fitting place for restored pianos, as well.  No particle board, no plastic. Just good old fashioned wood, felt and steel.

It was called the "golden era" of piano manufacturing. They were building pianos for completely different reasons than they are building them for now. Back then, before radio, television, computers, and video games, everybody played the piano. The family memories were created in the parlor room around the parlor piano. It was a very discerning public back then, and if you built a bad piano, you were quickly out of business. 

Contrast that with today. The vast majority of people who buy pianos today don't even play. They are looking for that status symbol piece of glossy black furniture to put in their great room. And since supply and demand drives business, the manufacturers are happy to accommodate that mindset. Most of the manufacturing money today is spent on the shiny black finishes, sacrificing what they have to (including sound) to fit that price point. The very few manufacturers left in America and Europe still making high-end pianos are out of range for all but a precious few, including churches. New Steinway grand pianos just aren't in the budgets for most churches. So, they are forced to settle for a production line piano, because they think that new pianos are they're only option.

I believe that the restored piano is the best-kept secret in the business. The fact that they are just as solid today as when they were built is a testament to their longevity.

Surprisingly, many churches have these "golden era" pianos already in their possession, but they are usually relegated to the fellowship hall or Sunday school classrooms, because it is in original condition. Chances are, that old fellowship hall baby grand piano is a better instrument than the new shiny black ones you find on the sanctuary stages. All you need is a little faith in the piano rebuilder.

Clint Hughes is the owner of Grand American Piano, a full service piano restoration facility located in Northern Idaho serving all of the contiguous United States, www.grandamericanpiano.com.

I got saved later in life. The Lord delivered me from darkness to light in a dramatic fashion, and even though I was restoring pianos well before I was saved, it wasn't until after I became a Christian that God really gave meaning to my profession. I now find striking similarities to piano restoration and my life.

When a piano comes into my shop, you can tell right away that life has taken a toll on it. The finish is old, scratched, and faded. The action parts (keys, hammers, etc.) are worn out, so it just isn't a joy to play anymore. And the strings and tuning pins are so old that they barely hold tune. In a word, it is useless. That was my life B.C. The world had taken its toll on me so much that I, too, had no function and no purpose.

But the reality is, once that piano gets to my shop, it is inexorably on a path to resurrection. That path to restoration, however, is not an easy one for the piano. Old finish has to be stripped off, and parts have to be stained, sanded, and sanded some more. New tuning pins have to be driven into the pinblock, and then, in order for the case to look like new, it has to be hand-rubbed with steel wool to a satin-smooth sheen. I see my trials in life like the restoration process itself. It takes a lot of sand paper to form me into the image of Christ, which the Father lovingly does, despite my resistance to it. When the restoration process is complete, the piano is like new again, brought back to its pristine original condition and the glory that it had when it first rolled off the factory floor.

Now, of course, restoring us to the original glory we had when we rolled off God's factory floor (the Garden of Eden) won't be realized until we give up the ghost, or the Great Rebuilder returns. This side of heaven, we will always be in the restoration process.

Thus I work, and all my work is a parable. And what a privilege it is to work on these century-old pianos.  There is a parable here for modern churches to interpret, too.  As the church is made up of restored people, it's only natural that it is a fitting place for restored pianos, as well.  No particle board, no plastic. Just good old fashioned wood, felt and steel.

It was called the "golden era" of piano manufacturing. They were building pianos for completely different reasons than they are building them for now. Back then, before radio, television, computers, and video games, everybody played the piano. The family memories were created in the parlor room around the parlor piano. It was a very discerning public back then, and if you built a bad piano, you were quickly out of business. 

Contrast that with today. The vast majority of people who buy pianos today don't even play. They are looking for that status symbol piece of glossy black furniture to put in their great room. And since supply and demand drives business, the manufacturers are happy to accommodate that mindset. Most of the manufacturing money today is spent on the shiny black finishes, sacrificing what they have to (including sound) to fit that price point. The very few manufacturers left in America and Europe still making high-end pianos are out of range for all but a precious few, including churches. New Steinway grand pianos just aren't in the budgets for most churches. So, they are forced to settle for a production line piano, because they think that new pianos are they're only option.

I believe that the restored piano is the best-kept secret in the business. The fact that they are just as solid today as when they were built is a testament to their longevity.

Surprisingly, many churches have these "golden era" pianos already in their possession, but they are usually relegated to the fellowship hall or Sunday school classrooms, because it is in original condition. Chances are, that old fellowship hall baby grand piano is a better instrument than the new shiny black ones you find on the sanctuary stages. All you need is a little faith in the piano rebuilder.

Clint Hughes is the owner of Grand American Piano, a full service piano restoration facility located in Northern Idaho serving all of the contiguous United States, www.grandamericanpiano.com.









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