By Grace Kasberg.
A piano like this extraordinary is so rare to be found in such an ordinary high school like Abilene High, but one is found right in the choir room. A Steinway Grand Piano. This recently refurbished piano was originally first purchased and placed at AHS in 1957, and is still used today in our recitals and everyday choir practices.
During the 50s, Abilene High and First Baptist Church were the only places that had an auditorium. Many concerts, performances, and recitals were held in the auditorium that were not only school events. That’s how this Steinway Grand Piano found its way to AHS so long ago. For a while after that the piano was kept in a box called a “piano coffin”, and was only used in various school recitals. Now more recently it has become certain that a piano so extraordinary shouldn’t be kept away but should be refurbished and used daily.
“Any sort of big gathering was here, in this auditorium because it was so large, the school used it, but it was also something that the city used as well,” choir teacher Wendy Weeks explained. “A performance hall of that kind you would want to make sure it had all the bells and whistles that all the other performance halls had, so of course they needed to have a grand piano.”
In 1957, it was decided that they needed to purchase a Steinway Grand Piano. This would make AHS fit in with all the great performance halls Abilene didn’t really have.
“It is known widely that this piano is the best, so it’s very unusual that a high school would have an instrument of that caliber,” Weeks said. “ So we’ve had that piano here, but it wasn’t used that frequently.”
After such a great piano was just sitting in a box back stage for so long, in 2021 a decision was made to have this instrument refurbished.
“May 10th, 2021, some piano techs from Lagrange, Texas, drove up here and loaded it up,” Weeks said. ”They returned it to us in October of that same year, and was used in a performance that same month.”\
The piano was completely modified to modernize and renew this grand piano. The piano was basically made new again.
“They removed all the strings, refinished the outside of the instrument, they reweighted all the keys, redid the registration of the strings,” Weeks explained. “Another thing that they did that was really interesting is repainting the harp of the piano.”
During the 50s TV was pretty much only broadcasted in black and white. The piano harp was painted a cream-colored white to make the piano look really nice when filmed.
“For more modern pianos the harp is painted gold because it looks beautiful and rich.” Weeks said, “Part of what they did in the refurbishing of the piano is they took the harp out and they repainted it gold, so it’s really beautiful.”
The orchestra room and band room have recently moved to a different building but the choir stayed and was redone and moved to where the band room was. Now the choir practices in a much bigger and nicer room where the piano stays as well.
“As a part of that renovation it has been made possible that the Steinway can now be wheeled through a set of double doors at the back of the choir room, directly onto the stage,” Weeks explains. “Not only will we be able to use that instrument for all of our performances, but additionally we will get to use it everyday.”
Using such a fine instrument in daily practices is really unique for the students in choir, most have never seen one before.
“I love the sound of the piano, it’s really pretty to sing with.” choir student Morgan Anders explained, “I’m really thankful that we are able to use a Steinway piano in daily practices,
The AHS choir stands out to the other schools with this extremely expensive and fine Steinway Grand Piano.
“It’s really important to emphasize it is very unusual that a high school our size, and a town the size of Abilene would have an instrument of this caliber.” Weeks says, “It just goes to show the rich history of performing arts here at Abilene High School.”