Posted by: ritagone | March 4, 2015

A Grand Story

slider_steinway_02         I’m a bit behind the times, apparently, but recently I watched a 2006 documentary called “Note By Note” which was almost an hour and a half long and detailed the making of a 9-foot concert grand Steinway piano from beginning to end, a year-long process that was absolutely fascinating.

The fascination was on two levels, as far as I’m concerned.

First, it was immediately apparent that they don’t make pianos like Steinway does anymore…except at the Steinway factory in Queens, New York, where people from many different countries and backgrounds come together to ply their various crafts with great pride and enthusiasm. Everyone interviewed, in fact, seemed to literally glow when speaking about his or her particular role in the construction of the grand piano, and they lovingly showed the film crew exactly what they did to complete the project. In fact, each person seemed to indicate that what he or she did was the “heart of the piano,” the most vital part of the instrument, and this phrase was uttered so often that it became almost humorous.

I say “almost humorous” because it wasn’t as funny as it was extremely touching. That kind of devotion to your craft and love for your work is hardly ever seen anymore on any level and for any product. I sat there watching and wondering where I could fit a 9-foot concert grand Steinway & Sons piano in my entryway, a $100,000+ piano, because I was so impressed by these people and their workmanship and work ethic. I wanted to own what they had collaborated on and created so that I could run my hand over the smooth surface of the wood, touch the ivory keys, listen to the mechanism of chords being struck, savor the magnificence of it all. I wanted to participate in a piece of what they loved, be a part of that kind of enthusiasm and actual history.

And I don’t even play the piano!

But beyond their work skills was an atmosphere that has developed into an almost-church-like community among the workers. I don’t think people ever quit or go on to “better” jobs easily; they make 30 or 40-year careers out of working for Steinway, and that’s a statement that is not true much anymore anywhere else.

Church staffs would do well to watch this documentary and learn how to keep their congregants under one roof for more than a few months or years. Somehow the Steinway factory has managed to create a space where people enjoy what they do and why they are there – this was something you heard over and over again: “I really love my work.” They all seemed very comfortable with one another: one scene during lunch showed them playing cards, playing guitars together, reading quietly by themselves in corners, talking with one another, in short, just being together in fellowship and ease. Yes, like a church that’s operating smoothly and functioning well!

If you get a chance, rent or buy the DVD “Note By Note.” You will not be disappointed, you’ll hear some great classical music played by concert pianists trying out various concert grand pianos, but most of all, you will be touched and impressed by what goes on in the Steinway factory in Queens.

You might even get some ideas for your own life and community when you’re done.


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