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Restored pianos revitalize music at two schools

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OREM -- Soon, teenagers in Utah will be able to play pianos that were once played by the masters. This fall two schools in Utah are unveiling newly restored concert-sized pianos after years of fundraising. These pianos are not only rich in history, but also mean a lot for the future of their schools

Olympus Jr High

Jayne Springman's fingers dance over the glossy keyboard of the newly-restored and just-delivered Steinway concert grand at Olympus Jr High School. She's a choir teacher now at the school, but played this very piano as a student at Granite High School in the 1970s.

"Before you had to pound to get the sound out. Now it's just amazing," said Springman.

The piano was delivered last week. It has new keys, strings, hammers, and a new finish. The crack in the soundboard was fixed. So were all the dings and chips.

The piano was built in 1939, and played by some of the biggest stars of the 40s.

"There was no symphony hall. Granite was the high school and this was the piano they would play. It gives you chills when you think of who played it," said Carole Harris, who was Granite High's principal before it closed.

The signatures of some of those artists are still preserved, including Arthur Rubenstein, Percy Grainger and Grant Johannesen.

Harris is now is now the principal of Olympus Jr High. To her, the piano is a connection to the past. With the help of Paula Delis and Ann-Marie Hopkins of the PTA, they created the 88 Key Program. By allowing people or groups to sponsor a key, they raised more than $14,000 to restore the piano - and make it a part of Olympus Jr High's future.

"To play a piano of this magnitude is just huge," said Harris. She says it may seem like a bit much for a junior high to have a concert grand, but she believes in allowing the students to shine.

"I want it to be played," said Springman. "This gives the school and community such an opportunity."

They both think the piano will mean more recitals and competitions and community events.

Orem High

In downtown Salt Lake City, Rick Baldassin is finishing up a Steinway piano he's restoring for Orem High School. He believes it's 120 years old.

It was modified a few times, and the lid was split down the middle.

"The soundboard and bridge cap are new, it has new strings and dampers, the plate has been refinished, and it has all new action parts. It will be a great piano," said Baldassin. He says it should last for decades now.

He has been working in pieces as the money has become available. Orem High has been fundraising for 8 years to restore it, gathering $32,000.

"This piano is 9 feet long. There was nothing in their budget for anything like that. They are able to get a bigger, full-concert size instrument for less than the cost of a smaller piano," he said.

Baldassin says it makes all the difference in the world for students to play such a fine piece. They can draw in festivals, programs, recitals and competition - definitely worth it to make this part of history part of their future.

Unveiling the pianos

Olympus Jr High will hold an event on November 17 at 7 p.m. to thank the donors who participated in their 88-key program. They will also have several students play pieces on the piano to showcase it.

Orem High School will unveil their piano at the school on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m.

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