Everyone who's been walking down South Michigan Avenue lately has been doing a double take when they get to the three story, newly renovated building at 1335 and take a gander through the picture window. "Pianos?" they say. "What are all these pianos doing here in the South Loop?"
Well, the pianos are all safe in their new home, ready for a look-see and a deal. Because as of a week or so ago, piano seller Pianoforte Chicago--as well as the outreach, educational and charitable arm of the concern, Pianoforte Foundation are ensconced in their own new building in the heart of the South Loop.
And there's only one thing to say: welcome!
It started exactly a year ago when Thomas Zoells, Pianoforte's president, confided to colleagues that the rent for the three level sales offices at street level at the historic Fine Arts Building at Michigan and Congress, and the performance space upstairs, was going up and out of sight. He wanted to buy a building to house the pianos. And the performances and events, which include s salon series, an annual Schubertiade and an amateur piano competition, Not to mention a monthly Pianoforte-sponsored live concert broadcast via WFMT, which has been done until now from Columbia College's Sherwood Community Music School.
Ironically, Zoells found a small building he liked right across the street from Sherwood on South Michigan Avenue, about a block south of Roosevelt Road.
It's come a long way since. But not without a few little inconveniences. Like losing the foundation's artistic director, who moved to North Carolina just a few weeks ago. Not to mention construction delays and frustrations. Oh, and did I mention Zoells wound up having emergency open-heart surgery in the Spring--right in the middle of everything, including a big fundraising event that was held on the north side in a massive antiques store? Nope, he couldn't attend. But his wife Darcy and the staff carried on and the fundraiser was a success. (The few-months-ago surgery, by the way, didn't stop Zoells last week from pushing pianos around the showroom to make room for Thursday's official ribbon cutting.)
Pianoforte Chicago and Pianforte Foundation are all moved in now. And up and running (other than the elevator, which is missing a panel). In addition to the ribbon cutting ceremony, and several concerts, the crowning glory to say we're "here" now was yesterday: a full day of music performances throughout the building on behalf of the Foundation, all free and open to the public. Including star pianists such as Sebastion Huydts, George Vatchnadze, Svetlana Belsky--and the evening highlight: Kimiko Ishizaka, who played not only a lot of Chopin, but also Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. (It was darn good.)
Last week when the Foundation had its first board meeting in the new building, I mentioned to my boyfriend Bruce--who's on the board--that Zoells should be made aware of a certain fact: that some of the businesses around him that are also nicely ensconced in the small rehabbed and restored historic automobile showroom buildings that line the block--like Pianoforte's own--have had their picture windows smashed.
"I warned him about the same thing when he was still at the Fine Arts," Bruce said. "I thought the picture window there might be attractive to burglars. But Thomas just said, 'What? Are they going to come in and steal a piano?'"