SALISBURY, Md. – Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin wouldn’t be thrilled to hear that fewer people are choosing to learn to play the piano than ever before.
At B&B Music in Salisbury, people have been shopping for pianos since they opened 60 years ago. One think you won’t see on the display floor in 2015 is a grand piano.
“We used to have actual string pianos at one time,” said store manager Mike Jarrell. “The way the economy was, it wasn’t very feasible for a lot of people. They can cost up to several thousands of dollars.”
The best year for new piano sales in the United States was 1909, when more than 364,500 were sold. Now that number has plunged to between 30,000 and 40,000 each year.
Denise Crothers is on her 36th year of teaching people young and old how to play piano. She averages about 60 students per week.
“I teach for half an hour, usually for each lesson and half of I teach them in the note because I think it’s important to still know how to read. Half of it would be like the praise and worship and learning how to chord and how to play by ear,” said Crothers. “They can play what they hear on the radio. Some of them don’t even need me anymore.”
Nationally, increased interest in sports or electronics is blamed for declining interest in learning to play the piano. Denise says lessons have evolved over the years in order to keep it fresh.
“I think it’s important for teachers to be able to apply the real world into their teaching. Not maybe strictly Classical. Classical is wonderful, you know, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love it, but I think it’s important for them to do fun songs and stuff like that,” said Crothers.
Rather than smashing old pianos on the curb, B&B Music is adapting to suit a more tech-savvy generation.
“Our more common models are the digital style models with weighted keys so it’s more like playing a real string piano. Then you start getting into more production type keyboards which are more for making your own scores and hip-hop beats and that kind of thing. It’s more of a production opposed to performance,” said Jarrell.
Despite a national downward trend in piano purchases and lessons, those in the biz can’t stress enough how important it is.
“In the music business, you’re constantly learning. It’s a never-ending thing,” said Jarrell.
“Once you commit to something, really having the work ethic to keep going and keep learning, it’s really rewarding and that’s something I think our culture lacks sometimes, you know the ‘stick-to-it-ness’,” said Crothers.