Goal! Piano vendor loans free Steinways, a few strings attached

Jazz pianist and composer Dario Boente never imagined having a Steinway piano at home. He was content to move around to practice on a modest straight line in a rehearsal hall in New York City.

This month, however, the movers arrived at Mr. Boente’s apartment with a Steinway Model M, a grand piano that costs around $ 68,000 when new. “It’s a dream,” he said. “The acoustics of the piano are incredible.”

But what’s most miraculous about Mr. Boente’s big score is the amount of money it cost him …zero dollars.

At any given time, around thirty piano lovers saw their lives and living rooms improved, if only temporarily, by an unlikely musical angel: a 37-year-old former hair removal expert named Ronen Segev, a classically trained pianist. , who runs a used piano business called Park Avenue Pianos.

Mr. Segev recruits assistants, like Mr. Boente, who are loaned pianos for free, but there is a catch: they must agree to transform their homes, offices or studios into active showrooms. Their borrowed pianos are for sale and Mr. Segev will bring in potential buyers to inspect the merchandise. (This journalist, whose entire piano repertoire consists of the “Beverly Hills Cop” theme song, has been hosting one of Mr. Segev’s Steinways since June).

Although his business plan saves a bundle of overhead costs, Mr Segev concedes that this creates complications, the first being that unless they choose to buy it, the hosts ultimately have to part with their piano. , no matter how much they attach.

A Steinway piano is delivered to a Manhattan home where it will stay temporarily until a buyer is found.


Photo:

Natalie Keyssar for the Wall Street Journal

When Edmond Chan, a resident of New Jersey, decided to buy a used piano from Mr. Segev for his 12-year-old daughter, he felt some guests weren’t too happy to see him. A host, he said, told him in no uncertain terms: “I hope you don’t choose this. I love this piano.

One of Mr. Segev’s volunteers lost contact with him completely, preventing him from showing the piano. “I had to step up a bit to get the piano out,” he said.

Concert-level grand pianos, such as the nearly 9-foot-tall Model D, are more at home in Carnegie Hall than stuck next to a sofa, and it can take months to find a buyer. But for mid-sized Steinways, which Mr. Segev sells for $ 30,000 to $ 40,000, the turnaround can be almost instantaneous. In July he one day moved a piano into an apartment and left it the next day.

Then there are the difficulties of moving pianos overseas – or even within New York City where elevators, stairwells, and apartments are often absurdly narrow and cramped. Mr. Segev has used several piano moving companies and sometimes has to hire cranes to move the pianos through windows.

Ronen Segev, pianist and seller of used pianos, does not have a showroom, but keeps his inventory in the houses.


Photo:

Natalie Keyssar for the Wall Street Journal

“The logistical challenges are significant,” he says.

Ron Losby, president of Steinway & Sons Americas, said he was not familiar with Mr. Segev’s business, but generally has a grim view of the aftermarket.

He’s heard too many complaints from angry buyers, he said, who have ended up with what some in the piano world call a “Stein-was,” a Steinway that has been rebuilt or refurbished. with parts from another manufacturer or by a technician without the company’s blessing.

According to Steinway, the average cost of its new pianos is $ 100,000, which can vary based on customizations. New concert-level Steinways start at around $ 160,900. The company resells some pianos, certifying parts and labor. He also sells spare parts, with the exception of the soundboard, the layer of wood under the strings, arguably the most important part in creating the distinct sound of each piano. For his soundboards, Steinway only uses Alaskan Sitka spruce, grown on the shady slopes of the mountains where the wood is dense, as opposed to the sunny slopes, where the trees grow faster, with less. density.

“The consumer can be very misled,” says Losby. “They see the name, and they assume everything inside is Steinway.”

Mr. Segev says such fears are easily modifiable. “Any technician can look at a piano and tell you in 90 seconds, it’s good or bad, or whether it has any Steinway parts or not.”

Mr. Segev started selling pianos as a side project while at Juilliard School, Manhattan’s elite performing arts conservatory. After graduating in 2003, he struggled financially between teaching, performing, and a laser hair removal business he had started with his brother. “During all of this, teaching the piano and responding to hair removal complaints, I was playing one or two pianos at a time,” he said.

Eventually, the world of hair removal lost its charms. “I wanted to make a difference and be surrounded by artists,” he said.

By 2011 he was all pianos, selling to professionals, as well as enthusiastic parents, renovating owners and celebrities such as motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

Mr Segev has a stock of around 30 used pianos at any given time and averages five or six sales per month, he said, although he recently peaked at 17, fueled by a Chinese wholesaler who bought 12.

Some buyers digitally log on to watch him test ivories with music by Gershwin, Chopin and other composers.

“I bought mine entirely over the phone,” said Steve Nawrocki of Michigan, who first encountered his piano in person when it was delivered.

Mr. Segev with one of the Steinway pianos he has in stock.


Photo:

Natalie Keyssar for the Wall Street Journal

More often than not, potential buyers come to test the tone and action of the keys by playing one or two concertos themselves. Some hosts don’t mind strangers in their homes, while others don’t allow them to use their bathrooms. “Comfort levels vary considerably,” Mr. Segev said.

So far, Mr. Boente, the jazz musician, has hosted two pianos and said he’s open to more. Get a high quality free piano by buying a smaller amount of lesser quality, he said, although some of them come and go quickly from his apartment. “I’m not going to complain,” he said. “Having one at home to practice changes you. “

There is, however, a small problem with the arrangement, Mr Boente said. Having the piano equivalent of a Ferrari in your living room makes procrastination much more difficult. “I feel guilty for having such an amazing instrument in my house if I don’t practice every day,” he said.

Write to Pia Catton at [email protected]

Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

About admin

Check Also

EU says J&J will miss second quarter vaccine supply target

Empty vials of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen on a table …