This Friday I won’t be speaking about politics. But will chat about a local piano business that is very unique. The program airs from 10-11 AM. Call in with questions: 636 0110 Amazing things happen in Westchester, especially in one of our Rivertowns: Dobbs Ferry. It has a history of cottage industries, actors and actresses, writers, musicians, great restaurants, and instrument makers. At the present time, there is an internationally known Evans Bassoon Studio, who is a bassoon repairman, a bagpipe maker who is one of the few in the country, and recently, The Arlan Harris Piano Atelier, who brings over 30 years of knowledge in piano rebuilding and servicing. The Atelier also hosts art shows as part of it’s art gallery events, featuring talented local artists, sculptures, craftspeople, independent writers in Westchester.
What is an Atelier? It is a French word which means “workshop”. It usually refers to fine craftspeople who work on musical instruments, art, design and the like. A H Piano Atelier showcases a collection of fine pianos restored by Arlan and his associates. What is Arlan doing when he is not rebuilding a piano with his team? He is in demand as a concert piano technician around the world and is contracted to work on performance pianos in theaters, concert halls, and recording studios. One conversation with Arlan and one feels the passion for this wonderful instrument and how he loves the challenge of bringing the pianos to their fullest potential.
“My Atelier is not a typical piano store. I have some pianos in my personal collection for sale, as well as consignment pianos I approve of and have, in most cases, worked on myself, and we have an art gallery where we display and sell art from local talented artists, sculptures, craftspeople as well as local artists, which creates magic when we mix these artists with musicians, writers and the like. We like to support local artists and find they add so much to our community.”
In a recent conversation with Arlan, he said: “I was bitten by the piano bug when I was 15- I am now 58! However, when I was hired by Steinway & Sons in 1982 to work in the famous basement in Steinway Hall, I was blessed to be around the finest technicians in the land, the finest pianists coming in every day to test and approve our work for their performances, and colleagues to learn from and share ideas. Many are now considered the finest piano technicians in the United States. It was a fun time, we were all young, passionate, and eager to learn and hone our skills. I still feel grateful and blessed Steinway accepted me as part of their team. I am grateful also to the many fine pianists I have worked for who have offered valuable suggestions and have been instrumental in my career as a technician and rebuilder.”
“I then worked as an independent contractor for Steinway as a Concert Piano Technician and Troubleshooter for 14 years. My territory was all of Latin and South America. During this time, I was based in Mexico and had an active clientele here in New York City, which I serviced several times a year and still have a core of loyal clients to this day! I have worked as the Director of the Technical Division for Faust Harrison Piano Company in their factory, overseeing final technical prep, voicing, and head of the piano action department. That was a wonderful experience working in a factory situation: Very different from my work as a concert piano technician. At the time, the Factory was located in 145 Palisade Street in Dobbs. Now their business has grown with stores and a factory in White Plains. I enjoyed working for Irving and Sara Faust, owners of the business.”
“Later I worked for Klavierhaus, a boutique fine piano rebuilding and sales company in Manhattan, where I was director of the Concert and Artist services which brought me once again into most of the most important venues in NYC as well as working for artists from Herbie Hancock to Louis Lortie, Emanuel Ax, and Lang Lang. I worked for 3 years in this position, then decided it was time to go on my own and live in Westchester with my wife. She paints, is a clothing designer, milliner, a published writer and poet by trade, and a great partner. She had a boutique in Dobbs Ferry called Ginko & Stich Boutique. Now she is painting and writing and has developed a technique called “Healing Visual Poetry. She is in demand as a speaker for healing seminars. She has a website-www.healingvisualpoetry.com”. It’s quite innovative and really cool!”
“I have sold pianos to theaters, recording studios, and some very finicky concert artists who require a concert piano to practice on in their home or studio. I perform custom work on pianos to fit the needs and tastes of the owners. It sounds like I am an elitist, but just a few weeks ago I sold a nice Baldwin Acrosonic spinet to nice couple who are opera singers in the city for under 1,000 dollars! It is always a great feeling to provide the right instrument for the person’s situation and needs. I never forget I am primarily in the “service business” and enjoy serving people. I also offer piano broker services and have access to many pianos, wholesale and retail.”
“There have been many studies in the past two decades by Neurologists that find playing the piano has many benefits for the brain, hand to eye coordination, and nervous system. Playing the piano is certainly an enjoyable activity one can stay with over the years! I firmly believe it is never too late to begin, whether it is to play for fun, serious amateur, or professional. I should know. I was a professional musician for around 20 years, but was always tinkling with pianos. I love this instrument!”
“There is a large gray area when it comes to working with the tonal characteristics of a piano, as well as the action or “feel” of the piano. It involves mechanics, engineering, and skill. This is where the artistry of a concert piano technician provides the pianists what they are dreaming for. I find my work is successful if the pianist can sit down and play music and not realize there is a piano in front of them. I want them to focus entirely on the music and music making. Then, the piano, the client, and I have been united in a very special way which for me, is very satisfying. I guess you can compare it to the airplane mechanic taking pleasure and responsibility for the pilot and passengers to have a safe and enjoyable trip while they fly.”
The atelier is open by appointment Monday – Friday 10-5.
Arlan Harris Piano Atelier
63 Main Street
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522