Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Player Piano...by Jim Terry

As a kid growing up, it was always nice to come home wasn’t it?  Or I guess I should also say, “Isn’t it”?

I remember many days coming home as a young boy after school and being dropped off by Mrs. Drake, our bus driver. At that time, we were one of only two homes up in the subdivision known as “Rimrock Estates” just outside of Idaho Falls, ID.  And because there were only two homes up in that subdivision at the time, our bus stop was a “mile” away.  …Ok you got me, but with kid steps it felt that way.  It was; however, at least a quarter to a half-mile in real distance. 

Upon my return home and walking through the front door, there were many times that I remember experiencing, first, the warmth, as in temperature, of the home. Eastern Idaho has some BRUTAL winters at times and walking that far from our bus stop in the wind and the snow is even tough for a kid.

The other kind of warmth I felt; however, was created by knowing I was coming home to a well kept home, had loving parents and lots of siblings to play with.   Music also always seemed to be a part of this “warmth.”  There always seemed to be some sort of music being played on the radio, on the intercom system or my Mother playing the piano. 

Which got me thinking about my Grandmother…how many of you have ever experienced a player piano? Or for that matter, “even know what one is?” 

Defined…”player piano (also known as pianola or autopiano) is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via pre-programmed music perforated paper, or in rare instances, metallic rolls. The rise of the player piano grew with the rise of the mass-produced piano for the home in the late 19th and early 20th century.[1]Sales peaked in 1924, then declined as the improvement in phonograph recordings due to electrical recording methods developed in the mid-1920s. The advent of electrical amplification in home music reproduction via radio in the same period helped cause their eventual decline in popularity, and the stock market crash of 1929 virtually wiped out production.”



I was and am always still amazed when my Grandmother would sit down and play the piano.  She can take a regular piano without the “perforated paper” or the “metallic rolls” and just play as if it was a player piano. As the story goes, she learned to play by ear.  ISN’T THAT JUST FRUSTRATING for those of us that can barely plink out chopsticks on a piano? 

My Grandmother, my Father’s Mother, is now 99 years old and is the last of my living grandparents.  I recently heard that she is not doing so well with her health and I wanted to share with the world her talent, her kindness, her smile and her legacy while she is still here with us.   The following is a clip of her playing a piano with her rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”…again very similar to what a player piano would sound like.

Music has always been such a powerful force and has brought back such fun memories, some tears and many times…a “warmth” to be felt in my life.  I am also proud to say that many of those experiences have been because of my association with my Grandmother playing her “player piano.”

“Love you Grandma…You’re the best!”