Just received this in my Google Alerts:
(Congrats to our own Rich Galassini)

Cunningham Piano Co. starts making pianos again
©
Philadelphia Daily News

Cunningham Piano Co. starts making pianos again
By TOM DI NARDO
Philadelphia Daily News

For the Daily News

ACENTURY AGO, a piano was a fixture in nearly every American living room. The family's rented upright, spinet or grand was as essential an obligation as today's car loan, and this area boasted six piano manufacturers and a host of retail stores.
Piano sales peaked in the 1920s, when more than 365,000 were leased or purchased domestically every year. The Depression crushed that number to about 50,000 by 1932, and it was further diminished by the advent of television 20 years later - and, more recently, the lack of music education in most public schools.

Then, in the mid-'90s came the book "The Mozart Effect," which talked about the impact of playing music on developing children's brains. Suddenly, parents wanted their kids to play instruments again, a trend that continues today.

Thus the Cunningham Piano Co., a prestigious local institution since 1891, has decided to take a giant leap back into manufacturing pianos.

Their new instrument, which has a remarkably rich sound, will be demonstrated in a July 30 concert by renowned pianist Hugh Sung at the Woodmere Art Museum.

The new Cunningham pianos are assembled in Shanghai, China, with Italian keys, German strings, Japanese action and parts from several other countries. An instrument from that Shanghai factory is the official piano at the Beijing Olympics.

"Because we don't make the parts or assemble them here, I don't consider us a piano manufacturer," said Timothy Oliver, who, with fellow longtime employee Richard Galassini, purchased Cunningham last February.

"But we have designed it ourselves, on our terms, with an intimate knowledge of all the parts," Oliver continued. "These pianos have a truly unique tonal palette. And after they come in, many hours are spent on each one in our factory to adjust them and make them absolutely perfect before delivery."

In its heyday, Cunningham built more than 2,000 pianos in a year, most of them tall uprights (referred to as "cabinet grands") and player pianos that worked with piano rolls.

George Gershwin composed the early stages of his opera "Porgy and Bess" on a Cunningham piano near Charleston, S.C., where it still can be seen in a "Porgy" museum.

The business was founded by Patrick J. Cunningham, who established his factory at 50th Street and Parkside Avenue and his showroom in Center City - precipitating a battle with John Wanamaker, then the largest local piano dealer. Cunningham retaliated by building his 11th and Chestnut streets showroom higher than Wanamaker's store.

In 1941, Cunningham sold the business to Louis Cohen, who moved it to Germantown Avenue near Coulter Street. Manufacturing ceased, but Cunningham has refurbished thousands of pianos and sold new and used instruments to customers throughout the world.

Fifteen technicians work on three floors of the atmospheric old building on all stages of piano repair and restoration - including the intricate metalwork and fine cabinetry - using arcane and unique skills. One craftsman recently spent a month studying restoration techniques at the Viennese factory where the famous Bosendorfer pianos are built.

Co-owner Galassini majored in vocal studies, musical performance and piano technology at Temple University but needed more than the income from singing church jobs. In 1987, he saw an ad in the Daily News for a piano salesman and discovered a new calling.

The idea of building a Cunningham piano again was first discussed around 1995, 54 years after manufacturing had ceased, Galassini recalled. "We became frustrated with what was available and realized there was a real void in the affordable piano market."


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