FLHS launches drive for grand piano

Rob Anderson, general manager at the Music Connection, plays the Yamaha C-3 piano being held for the Forest Lake High School choir room.

The music department at Forest Lake High School could take a significant step forward if everything comes together.

A six-foot one-inch conservatory-grade Yamaha C-3 grand piano, which would sell new for about $30,000, is on hold for them at Forest Lake’s music store.

It was used in a theory classroom at the University of Minnesota, according to high school orchestra director David Livermore, chair of the music department. But it looks brand new, in polished ebony. You can see it in the piano showroom at The Music Connection, 77 SW 8th Ave., just off Lake Street in Forest Lake.

The piano boasts a clear, pleasant tone that is consistent across the entire range, from lowest bass to the highest treble. No cardboard-sounding low notes or plinky high notes here.

It will find its way to the choir room if the high school can raise $15,000. They hope to achieve this goal by February.

The current piano in the rehearsal room is an upright Samick. In the auditorium, where audiences come to see concerts and musicals, the high school has a Yamaha C7, a seven-foot performance-grade grand piano purchased in the 1990s.

Music Connection store manager Rob Anderson said the C3 is not quite as loud as the auditorium piano, but may sound louder because it will be in a smaller room.

But volume is not the main reason the choir wants this change.

The Yamaha C-3 is built to withstand the rigors of classroom use, Livermore said. With the old piano, the dowels between the key and hammers warped, bent, came loose, even broke. The conservatory-grade grand has heavy-duty hammers that can be played nonstop, he said.

Anderson, who plays and sells pianos, said Yamaha puts more research into their pianos than all other piano builders combined. “They’ve been making pianos for over 100 years,” he said, and “they keep making subtle changes to make them last longer and play better.”

Anderson explained that in an upright piano, a spring is used to pull the hammer back after it strikes the vertical strings.

In a grand piano, which has horizontal strings, gravity is all it takes to pull the hammer away. The result is much faster action.

“The Yamaha has excellent action,” he said.

The 6-feet 1-inch size is between a concert grand and a baby grand. Conservatory grade means the piano was intended for rehearsal spaces, recording studios, and stages.

High school choir director Alyssa Wyatt agreed that the choir room needs a sturdier piano with faster action. “This piano should last three or four decades,” she said.

But especially important to Wyatt is the quality of the sound. “Tone quality affects the way singers sing,” she said. “If they hear a dull piano, they tend to sing with a dull tone. With a brighter piano, the shimmer and sparkle rings in the room.”

The more resonant sound feels better and sounds better, Wyatt added, and singers respond with a better tone of their own.

The Yamaha website uses these words to describe the tone: Transparent reverberation and lush harmonics enable the C3 to fulfill the stringent requirements of the professional performer for fine expressive control.”

The old piano was also getting hard to keep in tune. Music Connection manager Anderson said one of the improvements Yamaha has made is to build pianos that stay in tune longer. Wyatt said the choir room is air-conditioned, so high heat is not a factor, but dry air is. A humidifier will be installed in the piano to help tunings last longer.

The choir room piano will be used not for performances but for classes and rehearsals. One class is Advanced Placement music theory, in which students hear and repeat precise intervals. For this, the piano must be in tune.

Fund-Raising Efforts

The search for funds began last week, when students from the entire music department—choir, band, and orchestra—sold coffee and cheesecake to families over Thanksgiving weekend.

For $15, supporters  receive a bag of freshly ground coffee and $15 in coupons from Domino’s, Papa John’s and Vanelli’s.

The students wanted to sell the cheesecake because last year, when they traveled to the Music Educators Conference, they tasted a sample. “The kids raved about the cheesecake,” Livermore said.

A major source of funds will be the Key Donor campaign. Local businesses, parents of music students, and alumni are being asked to give $200 per piano key until all 88 keys are sold. If every key were sold at this price, a total of $17,600 would be raised. Letters went out last week explaining the plan and asking for donations.

Another fund-raising idea, Livermore said, is the possibility of showcasing dueling pianos at Running Aces.

Leading the fund-raising effort is the Forest Lake Area Music Boosters, which has successfully completed similar projects in the past. New dresses for women in the band and orchestra, plus new tuxedo shirts for the men, were purchased last year.

Incoming Booster Club president Nancy Kramer, who takes office Dec. 1, said the group will meet in December.

Livermore said Forest Lake has a very supportive atmosphere in the music department. The Yamaha C3 will be for the choir, but band and orchestra students are also out raising funds. “The music students get along,” Livermore said.

Livermore and Wyatt said at Forest Lake High School it is possible to be in both the choir and band or orchestra.