Tod and Connie Aronson
The short story, recommendation, we love Michael, love Michael’s work and we love the piano he restored for us. He comes with our highest possible recommendation.
The long story, Connie’s mother died and we looked at her old, falling apart upright piano that had been a part of the house for perhaps 50 years. Memory said that her dad bought it for $25. Connie and her brother both learned how to play on it as children and teenagers. It had not been used for at least 20 years. Its finish was cracked and black from age. At least one half of the ivory that once covered the keys was sitting in a bowl next to the piano.
The house was just minutes from Lake Erie and my suggestion was to contact the Coast Guard, perhaps they could pick it up and drop it into Lake Erie to become a fish sanctuary.
Connie’s brother agreed at first but then said perhaps it was worth restoring, we could use some of the money from the eventual sale of Mother’s home.
Michael arranged to have it shipped to Tennessee from our home just north of Pittsburgh in May of 2010. We drove down there shortly afterwards to meet him and see his shop. It was a 9 hour drive over two days down and at least that much back home. We made a great 5 day road trip out of it just to meet with Michael for a couple of hours. We discussed the piano and what Michael’s plans were. He played this old, sad, broken instrument with skill and produced a sound that could only be produced by a professional. This unrestored piano never sounded so good, he was one with the instrument and played without effort.
Then he took it apart in front of us. Connie found an old pencil, a guitar pick from her father, he used to play while she “tickled the ivories” and she also found a one page book report she had done in 3rd grade. It was a day to remember.
About 13 months later and many e-mails and digital photos Michael told us it was done. The photos were amazing. Between Michael and ourselves we found out the piano was built between 1910 and 1920 so we decided on 1915 as the date. The company, Haggerty-Cook, made upright pianos in Warren, Pennsylvania for less than 30 years before the Depression ended their existence. The pianos were large and oversized so they could be sold as player pianos if the buyer wanted the option.
Anything that could not be repaired had to be built from scratch. Michael even had the decal custom made. He sent it back to the manufacturer 4 times until it met his standards.
We added “electronic player guts” since there was room and it is now both a standard upright and an electronic player piano. One would never know it is also a player piano except for a small black box under the keyboard for CDs,
As restoration progressed Michael discovered the piano had Mahogany veneer over wormy chestnut with an old growth maple sounding board. To us it is the most beautiful instrument ever built as measured by the both the sound and the appearance, although our view is filtered by the sentiment that surrounds it. Others may not be as excited by it as we are.
We asked Michael to “hold” the piano until September of 2011 when we again drove down to see him and the results of his work. Another trip not to be forgotten. Connie cried when she saw the piano, cried more when she heard it for the first time and hugged Michael (who graciously accepted) the way a mother might hug a doctor who had brought her child back from a near death.
His shop is a workshop and not a show place. It is coupled with his own very small museum of restored pianos. It was impossible to find a question he could not answer, something he could not explain.
As for the cost, would you complain that Warren Buffett overcharged you for financial advice? Or that Michelangelo changed you too much to do a painting? It was not cheap to restore the piano but we feel it was worth every penny.
Attached are two “so-so” cell phone photos of the piano. They do not do justice to Michael’s skills but give you an idea that no one would ever think about dropping it into Lake Erie again.
Should you decide to use Michael’s services we feel you will have no regrets with your judgment and find comfort in letting Michael put his craftsman’s hands on your “old girl” to bring her back to where she belongs.
Thank you for the opportunity to sing Michael’s praises to you.
Tod and Connie