Pianos, free for the taking – The Washington Post


There’s nothing like the gift of music, but sometimes the gift of music can be a curse. Take a piano, for example.

How do you dispose of an unwanted piano? It’s easy to get rid of an empty wine bottle or a dead goldfish (recycling bin and toilet, respectively). Even an unwanted trombone or guitar is relatively easy to shift. (More on that later.) But a piano . . .

John Kelly writes “John Kelly’s Washington,” a daily look at Washington’s less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive


A reader of mine named Mary has a 40-year-old Yamaha upright piano that is taking up space. She’s not interested in selling it. She just doesn’t want it around anymore.

“Our kids are gone. We’re in an apartment. It’s really more than we want in our living room,” Mary said. She wondered if I knew of any organization that could use a free piano. She even offered to pay for moving it.

I’m sure I will now be inundated with people who want pianos, but until then, let us explore the issue. One possibility is to call around to churches, nursing homes and schools, though I suspect that most of the places that wants ’em already has ’em. Of course, there’s CraigsList. There are always a few free pianos there.

What if you want it to go to a good cause?

The Beethoven Foundation (beethovenfoundation.com), based in Asheville, N.C., is a nonprofit organization started by Dutch-born concert pianist Jan Mulder that accepts pianos, both for piano-less people around the country and to sell to fund projects.

“The pianos go to help families in need of a piano, so we will move a piano directly from Point A to Point B,” said Gabriel Mulder, son of the founder. “We will use a professional, trusted piano mover. They will pick up the piano; then we provide a tax receipt. It’s very convenient for anybody looking to donate.”

If there’s no family in need of a piano in a particular area, the Beethoven Foundation will sell it and use the money for music scholarships. Gabriel estimated the foundation handles about 10 pianos a day. Generally, it accepts only pianos less than 20 years old.

“We can’t accept them all obviously,” he said. “Some are not at all in a condition for students to be using.”

That’s a problem with pianos. No one knows that better than Brian Goodwin, a piano mover in Nashua, N.H.

In 2005, Brian started Piano Adoption (pianoadoption.com), an online clearinghouse to match people who have unwanted pianos with people who want to have pianos. Givers post a photo and description and arrange delivery with receivers.

Brian is delighted to see pianos in use, but he cautions that a free piano may not be a good deal.

“We see it as movers,” he said. “We’re not technicians, but we’ve seen enough pianos to know if the piano is just a hunk of crap. We deliver it, then they start telling us, ‘Oh, I found it for free!’ You don’t have the heart to tell them, ‘You really shouldn’t take this piano.’”

That’s because 500 pounds of messed-up piano is worse than no piano at all. If you’re offered a free piano, pay a piano technician to check it out before accepting it. Don’t forget that moving a piano can cost $150 to $500. You don’t want to fork that over to move a lousy one — twice.

Inevitably, some pianos must go to the great concert hall in the sky. This can be hard to accept. Brian put a video on YouTube of some of his guys disposing of broken pianos at a New England landfill. The instruments roll from the back of the truck like bombs from a B-17.

This pains some people. “That’s terrible,” one person commented. “Every home should have a piano even if no one can play it.”

Hmm, probably not.

If you have ideas on getting rid of pianos, let me know. And if you have smaller stuff — guitars, violins, wind instruments, drums — try Hungry for Music (hungryformusic.org), a charity that since its founding in Alexandria in 1994 has distributed 7,000 instruments in 41 states and 11 countries.

via Pianos, free for the taking – The Washington Post.

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