Piano Grand

The Life and Rebirth of a Piece of History

About Piano Grand

Piano Grand is the story of a magnificent grand piano built in 1893 by legendary Boston piano maker Chickering & Sons. Purchased at auction in Detroit, Michigan in 2006, the piano was in need of major repair work. What began as a project to document its restoration unfolded into a fascinating tale about the people and historic events surrounding this beautiful instrument.

The movie includes a brief history of Jonas Chickering, his groundbreaking contribution to piano technology, and his company's triumphs and tragedies. It also reveals the piano's secret place in history and documents its restoration.

Told through interviews, historic pictures, beautiful graphics and computer animation, the story is accompanied by a soundtrack with period piano music from Chopin, Satie and others.

Experience the beauty, the controversy, the life, and the rebirth... of a piece of history.



Jonas Chickering

This story would not have been possible without the ingenuity and craftsmanship of Jonas Chickering, so it begins with a brief history of this fascinating man, his triumphs and his tragedies.

Known as the father of the modern piano, Jonas Chickering patented the first full cast iron plate for a grand piano in 1843, forever changing the instrument. Virtually every grand piano built to this day owes its strength and beautiful tone to him.

Jeanne Swanson

Jeanne and her husband Brian purchased Chickering piano #83100 from an auction house in Detroit. As she describes in the film, it was love at first sight.

Jeanne first contacted the Smithsonian to find out if they had information about the piano. She knew they had the company's records, but was unaware of the surprise in store for her.

George Michalski
Forte Piano (Detroit, MI) - www.4tepiano.com

After speaking with several piano restorers in the area, Jeane and Brian chose George to restore their beautiful instrument. They were impressed not only with his resume, but knew the Old-World craftsmanship that he brings to every project made him the perfect choice.

George is originally from Poland, where he earned his Master's degree as a piano technician. English is not his native language, so he was a little reluctant at first to talk on camera. But once it was turned on, he was eloquent; even recounting how he survived World War II as a child.

Elmer and Jim Reeder
Reeder Piano (Lansing, MI) - www.reederpianos.com

Jim Reeder (R) has been in the piano restoration business for years. His company is one of the few shops that can handle very heavy older pianos, such as this Chickering.

Because of their expertise with such large and difficult jobs, George hired Reeder Pianos to re-glaze the cast iron plate, install a new pin block (which holds the tuning pins) and build and install a new soundboard. Jim's father, Elmer (L), who was 93 at the time, helped build the soundboard to exacting standards.

Greg Pond
Piano Tuner

Greg discusses how he was drawn to the tuning business and what it means to practice the craft he loves every day. He also describes the process of tuning a piano as we watch him work. Once tuned, he plays his own melody, the only music in the movie that is not a period piece.

Greg is one of the Detroit area's top piano tuners. If you are in need of a piano tuner, feel free to contact Greg at 888-619-1557.

Janice Derian
Piano Teacher

Janice studies piano at the university level and also teaches piano to students of all ages.

She performed two of the period pieces in the movie: Chopin's Raindrop Prelude (Op. 28, No. 15) and Mendelssohn's Venetian Boat Song No. 1 (Op. 19, No. 6).

Steven Gotler
Filmmaker, gotlerTech, LLC

Originally a film major in college, Steve has been an engineer, a technical consultant, attorney and a marketing director. He owns gotlerTech, LLC, a web design, marketing and media production company.

Returning to his filmmaking roots, Steve produced, directed, wrote and edited the film and did the lighting, sound, camerawork and narration.