Tag Archives: musical instrument collection

metropolitan museum: curator emeritus of the musical instrument collection


“Piano history isn’t over. You’re writing a new chapter. Thanks! ~ Laurence Libin”

Musical Instrument Collection

Laurence Libin, Curator Emeritus of the Musical Instrument Collection, Metropolitan Museum, NYC – after playing the first production prototype Stanwood Adjustable Leverage Action by David Stanwood, April 2009

the piano book: the transformation stanwood gives is likely to be miraculous

the piano book

Excerpt from “The Piano Book”
By Larry Fine

Stanwood Touch Designs for the grand piano

Pianists agree that piano actions vary widely in their characteristic feel and in the way they respond.

Of course, regulation of the action and tone of the instrument have a significant effect on what the pianist experiences. But there exist more basic underlying elements in piano action design that no amount of regulation or voicing can change.

This fact is most pronounced in pianos with unusually heavy action that “play like a truck”.

Research and study of piano actions carried out by David C. Stanwood has shed a whole new light on the subject of piano action design and led to the development of Stanwood precision touch design for the grand piano action. (Stanwood Co., RFD 340, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568; (508) 693-1583).

Stanwood’s system has been known to improve even some of the finest pianos, so if your piano plays like a truck, the transformation is likely to be miraculous.

The Stanwood Touch Design System is installed in the piano by modifying the pianos action parts. It is available in a variety of stock or custom touch designs.

Each touch design is a special recipe which specifies for each note the exact proportions of hammer weight, hammer leverage, key balancing weight, and frictional resistance.

Once calibrated to these rigid specifications, the piano takes on the expected characteristic feel, with an extremely consistent response from note to note.

Touch designs are chosen based on tonal projection needs and desired characteristic feel.

The higher hammer weight designs have a firmer feel with
more powerful tonal projection, as required in concert halls.

The lighter hammer weight designs have a lighter feel and give a lower tonal projection appropriate for smaller rooms and studios.

Stanwood says the advantages of his precision touch design include reducing, or in some cases stopping, repetitive stress injury due to inordinate physical stress; increasing the value of the piano; facilitating the purchase and sale of pianos; and generally improving pianistic ability and expression.

Stanwood is currently licensing, and training technicians around the country to install his touch designs, which have received strong endorsements from concert artists and technicians.

– Larry Fine

Trip brings piano technician in tune with past

cuba trip

By Julia Wells, Globe Correspondent, Boston Sunday Globe, 02/15/98

WEST TISBURY – The black and white photograph captures three young boys standing in front of a fireplace – sport coats buttoned, hair plastered into place, corny smiles for the camera.

David Stanwood props the picture on the table in the sunny kitchen of his West Tisbury farmhouse. For a minute he is lost in memory.

It was February 1958, and Stanwood was 7 years old, vacationing in Miami with his family. ”My father said, `Let’s go over to Havana for the day,”’ Stanwood recalls.

They visited the Havana Country Club, and during the visit a picture was taken of David and his two brothers in the formal reception room at the club. Behind them, over the mantel, hung a portrait of Frederick Snare, their great-grandfather.

In the early 1900s Snare founded an engineering company that helped build Cuba’s infrastructure. The company built bridges, schools, and the National Baseball Stadium in Havana.

Snare, who loved to play golf, also founded the Havana Country Club in 1911 and was its president until his death in 1946.

Stanwood remembers the day of the visit and how, as the youngest brother, he was the one who had to wear a ”stupid” bow tie.

A year later, the Cuban revolution occurred and the Stanwoods lost all touch with the island. ”My whole life I have had this picture – but we always thought the place was probably gone after the revolution,” Stanwood says.

In July 1996, Stanwood, an internationally acclaimed piano technician who lives on Martha’s Vineyard, attended the annual Institute of Piano Technicians Guild meeting in Orlando, Fla.

While there, he met Benjamin Treuhaft. Treuhaft told Stanwood about a mission he had begun to take pianos and piano technicians into Cuba.

”It was kind of a mission of mercy, as he described it,” Stanwood says. During the conversation Stanwood told Treuhaft that his great-grandfather had founded the Havana Country Club.

”He just screamed and said, `That is where we work!’ He said, `You have to come.”’

In January, Stanwood and his wife, Eleanor, traveled to Havana with 18 piano technicians from all over North America. With special visas from both the US Treasury Department and the Cuban Ministry of Culture, the group’s mission was to work with Cubans on pianos for 10 days.

They brought 25 donated pianos, medical supplies, and 13 bicycles. Officially they were called the Piano Tuners’ Brigade, but at the outset Eleanor Stanwood came up with another nickname: the Piano Peace Corps.

Stanwood admits that the mission was the second reason he wanted to go to Cuba. ”Deep down inside me the real reason I wanted to go was to find out what happened to the country club, to the painting of my great-grandfather,” he says.

The morning after the group arrived, they walked to the country club and gathered in front of the fireplace for the opening reception – the same fireplace where Stanwood was photographed 40 years ago.

”I didn’t say anything. I just took the picture out and put it on the mantel,” he smiles.

The Stanwoods were amazed to find that the country club was unchanged; the furniture was the same, the same two urns stood on the mantel, the same barometer hung on the wall near the fireplace. Like so much of Havana, the room had been frozen in time.

The only thing missing was the portrait of Frederick Snare, which the Stanwoods learned had been taken to the Havana Museum of Fine Arts for safekeeping after the revolution.

”All these years we always thought they had probably trashed the place. I imagined it had been burned in the name of the revolution, my grandfather’s portrait slashed and destroyed as a symbol of capitalism,” Stanwood says.

Instead they found that after the revolution the country club had been turned into Cuba’s first school of the arts, the Instituto Superior de Arte. It is where the country’s most talented artists come to study music, sculpture, painting, dance and theater.

”Everywhere we went, we heard music,” Stanwood says.

Stanwood, whose work takes him all over the world, was struck by the quality of the music he heard. ”I have been on the campuses of music schools many, many times – and what was really different here is you could stop at any moment and listen to a level of music that was really extraordinary. It is the expression, the heart, you can feel the Cuban people, you feel their embrace in their music.”

The Stanwoods say traveling to Cuba was like traveling back in time. All the automobiles are from the 1950s, there are no high-rise buildings, and everywhere people walk and ride bicycles. ”It seems like time stopped in 1959,” says Eleanor Stanwood.

The Stanwoods say the Cuban people have little money and few material possessions, their buildings are crumbling, but they are rich in spirit and culture.

”The revolution is a very clear presence in the minds and hearts of the people,” says Eleanor Stanwood. ”You are not free, there is no privacy. And yet they are very open, very aware of each other. Everyone looks you in the eye and you feel completely safe, even on the darkest street at night with complete strangers.”

”The success story in Cuba is the quality of their culture – it is something they are doing right,” David Stanwood says.

The piano technicians did most of their work in the same room where Stanwood was photographed with his brothers 40 years ago.

Stanwood said there are thousands of pianos in Cuba but only a handful of technicians trained to work on them. Many of the pianos are in terrible condition and there is a widespread problem with termites.

The Stanwoods plan to return to Cuba next year with the Piano Peace Corps; this time they plan to stay for a month and take their two teenage children. The group hopes to establish a school at the institute to train piano technicians with the help of foundation money from the United States.

Stanwood has one other goal – to retrieve the portrait of his great-grandfather from the museum and hang it over the mantel again in the reception room of the old country club.

”That they chose the country club to make it an institute of the arts was the finest tribute to the spirit of my grandfather,” he says.

By Julia Wells, Globe Correspondent, Boston Sunday Globe,

This story ran on page B07 of the Boston Globe on 02/15/98.
© Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.