Faust Harrison Pianos, Irving Faust, piano addict, Piano Street, Piano World, rebuilding Steinway grand pianos, rebuilt pianos, Sara Faust, Steinway grand piano

My visit to Faust Harrison Pianos in Manhattan, and White Plains, New York

Steinway A side view crop White Plains

During my recent NYC touchdown for the occasion of my mother’s memorial service, I found a weekend interval to make side trips to Faust Harrison Pianos’ remarkable showrooms and factory. Serendipitously drifting into an inviting space on Piano Row’s West 58th, just a block from Carnegie Hall, I was surrounded by Steinway grands that were impeccably rebuilt and immaculately refinished. It was a piano paradise from start to finish with generous opportunities to extract every musical morsel of pleasure from each instrument.

Irving and Sara Faust, co-founders of this expanding musical establishment that now has FOUR premier showrooms and an awesome state of the art White Plains factory, were my hosts on Sunday June 7th in Westchester, Faust Harrison Spread of pianoswhile Dmitri Shelest, Sales Associate, was a reliable guide and historian at the New York City location.

Inside W. 58 Faust Harrison signature

Faust Harrison specializes in rebuilding vintage Steinway grand pianos that are for sale in their Manhattan, White Plains, Huntington Station, New York; and Fairfield Connecticut locations, while the White Plains factory, accessible by Metro North departing from Times Square is the crowning glory.

Aside from feverishly forward-moving rebuilding operations, Faust Harrison sells brand new Yamaha, Mason & Hamlin, Hoffman, Schimmel, Bechstein and most recently, Fazioli pianos.

Taking up an offer to interview Sara and Irving on their home turf in White Plains that played out after my immersion in pianos at the NYC showroom, (June 6th) I was delighted to film the whole dream- fulfilling journey in pleasurable parcels.

Thank you Sara and Irving for a riveting visit!


If indulging beautifully crafted pianos was not enough for a weekend East Coast spree, meeting up with a Facebook Friend who shared my passion for teaching via the Piano Pedagogy FB Group, was icing on the cake. (Gail Trattner Isenberg and I both shared NYC and Berkeley translocations)

Ironicially, she had reserved the Faust Harrison recital area of the showroom on Sunday, June 7th, for a beautiful display of her students’ musical gifts, and I was fortunate not only to meet my colleague for the first time IN PERSON, but to enjoy the fruits of her creative labors as I combed the White Plains super space.

Naturally, cameras were snapping at every opportunity, so I joined in, capturing memories of a unique outing that will be savored for years to come!

Gail and I, Faust Harrison

Gail students in recital hall side view crop

Faust Harrison Recital Hall with emblem


Faust Harrison Pianos Website



Sara’s statement of concern for elephants as it applies to the ivory trade


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More and more “piano” students are going Digital. Is it a good idea?

It’s sad but true that a glut of former piano buyers who would have considered piano lessons for their children at age 7 or so, have made the choice to invest in a DIGITAL. (known as a DP)

Of further testimony to the culture’s relatively new fixation on electronic piano technology, are the 35,000 plus You Tube hits my DP overview has amassed, compared to a mainstream “acoustic” offering that snagged the spotlight because of my bench potato CAT.

The CAT and Chopin

Considering the above, which musical purveyance is more pleasing?

I’d say hands down that Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” (below) would be better rendered on an acoustic than a Roland, etc. based on tone dimension and timbre alone. The “feel” of a real piano, also cannot be compared to any so-called mimicked “hammer-weighted” electronic keyboard, though many buyers have tried to trick their hands, not to mention EARS into believing so.

“Fur Elise” rendered on a Steinway (Compare to Roland/Yamaha samples)

So having voiced my bias against digitals, why would I have invested hours of time scoping them out at Guitar Center and Best Buy? No less, bringing a video camera along for the ride? (thanks to Guitar Center’s CEO, Jeremy Cole for the written permission, and to Matthew Wheeler at BB)

Well, reality is, that the purchasing trend is in this direction, and if I tabulated all the inquiries fielded for an opinion on which one to buy, it would stagger the reader’s imagination.

It’s a fact that shoppers are flocking to acquire DPs at every opportunity and they haven’t stopped for a moment to think of what they are sacrificing in this fever-driven pursuit.


Elaine Comparone, a well-known New York City-based concert performer injected a bit of social commentary about the wave of DP buying. It was after I had bemoaned the number of parents contacting me for piano lessons who had electronic keyboards. Some of their prize musical possessions amounted to 61, bell and whistle sounds, with a few “belches” thrown in for special effect.

Elaine’s thoughts were riveting:

“I think a lot of this is economic along with the pervasive effect of pop culture. Which of these kids, or parents for that matter, have ever seen or heard a real instrument on TV or live? Real music study has become a pastime for the wealthy elites where years ago it was a sine qua non of immigrant working class culture. But it behooves us to hang in there and pass along genuine musical values, which can exist in myriad musical forms. Blah blah…..”

I added to the mix that “real” pianos sold at dealerships were beyond the financial means of the average instrument buyer, though, ironically, struggling consumers might in a flash, slap down a credit card for a $4100 Roland equipped with EVERYTHING, like a snazzy new car with all imaginable options.

Try this DP out for size:

One Facebook correspondent owned a 9-foot Steinway grand, but had the luxury to invest in a pricey Digital console that would yield hours of pleasure with its fancy accouterments.

Initially plagued by making a choice between a LX10 Roland at $4,100 and a $2900 Yamaha CLP 440, she was biased toward the Roland based on its “accelerated action and weighted keys from bass to treble unlike the Yamaha.”

It could also simulate the so-called Steinway grand piano sound with a simple finger tap.

Other consumers, of more modest means, might have gone the less expensive route buying a portable or more modestly priced console like the Yamaha Arius going for about $1100 plus tax.

Still, when it came right down to it, teaching piano to a child or adult equipped with a “hammer-weighted” digital wouldn’t be same as working with an acoustic.

I Skyped a few piano lessons to rural Pennsylvania, where a DP flashed up on the screen. In time, after the first virtually transmitted instruction, it was tossed in favor of a twangy Haddorff 1941 console. To call the latter a saloon piano would have been an understatement, though its “feel” and “resonance” appealed to the owner.

I could relate.

The decay rate of any note on this “real” piano was astounding. It reverbed to the heavens despite its shortcomings attached to a poor maintenance history.

By coincidence, I had purchased my treasured Haddorff 1951, advertised on Craig’s List for $700, and it played circles around any digital in the tone and timbre department. (Though I will admit that its tuning needs were frequent, compared to tune-free electronic instruments)

Nonetheless, the above example alone, proves to me, that there are many worthy used pianos waiting to be purchased, and like mine, they may be located around the corner.

I’ve helped any number of students acquire pianos before the digital rage took hold and these purchases included Baldwin Acrosonics and Wurlitzers from the 50s, 60s and 70s era.

Just a decade ago most parents who contacted me for lessons had one of these acoustic pianos in their home. Today, the majority own a Casio, Yamaha, or a lesser known DP, and they have no idea that embarking upon instruction might require the real deal as far as some piano instructors are concerned. (myself included, though I’ve made adjustments for students who have little or no space for even a console or spinet piano)


But for piano study to be meaningful, it entails properly teaching the singing tone, touch, phrasing, nuance, “feel” which means a student needs to practice on a functional acoustic piano– one without sticking notes, missing notes or blanks, etc. In addition, the instrument needs to have tuning viability. (an able technician can examine the tuning pins, hammers, strings, etc. before a particular piano is acquired)

Many DP owners boast the critical lack of need and cost associated with tuning or regulation. (not to mention having climate-free concerns ) While these may be definite advantages, the trade-off in other areas of assessment is, in my opinion, not worth it. And I’m not talking about the hours of recreation and pleasure afforded by DPs. That’s FUN and great. My concern surrounds TEACHING and passing on a traditional legacy that has been time-honored for generations. (and that goes for mentoring “beginners.” There’s no reason for the training-wheels equivalent of a digital as predecessor to a real piano) One piano teacher’s website, for example, shows a row of 3-year olds wearing over-sized ear phones, hooked up to computer screens and attached digitals. She claims they are Mozarts in-the-making.

I’ve heard that song sung so often, that it’s become a dissonant reminder of the status quo.

But to inject some humor into this posting,

Evgeni Bozhanov, a distinguished Bulgarian pianist who competed in the last Cliburn International Piano Competition, was quoted as being unhappy with the complimentary Steinway grand donated to his host family in Fort Worth Texas as he prepared for his first-round musical appearance.

Pictured at a Yamaha Clavinova practicing a warhorse Rachmaninoff piano concerto, he was the poster boy for musical sobriety, shrugging off the arrogance of effete snob pianists who might discredit him. (Would that happen to be me?)

So on this disturbingly confusing note, I’ll conclude by sharing my voiced fears about the survival of the acoustic piano culture as channeled in a previous blog.



My “new” old 1929 Baldwin grand–a tribute to a seasoned used piano. For me, no digital can come close to it.

Footnote to item about Evgeni Bozhanov, from Wilson Pruitt who blogged about the last Van Cliburn Piano Competition


“Things we know about Bozhanov: … He doesn’t like Steinways, especially American-made Steinways, and definitely not the brand-new New York grand that was delivered to his host family’s house so he could practice. Instead, his host family bought a Yamaha Clavinova electronic piano for him to use for practice (while in Texas) … He travels with his own piano bench.” (which looks like one of those DP jobs)

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Piano Technique: More wrist-forward rolling motion in Sonatina by Clementi Op. 36 no. 1 Vivace (Videos)

In two videos, I flesh out the need for a rolling forward wrist motion in playing the last movement of Clementi’s well-known Sonatina in C, vivace.

In addition, a 3/8 meter designation in rapid tempo requires the “feeling” of ONE impulse per measure not three. And this sense of ONENESS suggests CIRCLES of motion which are physically demonstrated in the instruction.

The supple or undulating wrist is pivotal to playing this Rondo movement with shape and contour, avoiding the pencil point, or Rosie the Riveter approach to notes. https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/piano-technique-avoiding-pencil-point-playing/

In this regard, I offer preliminaries to loosen up the wrist, and suggest rhythms that I enlist to develop streams of 16th notes.

There’s a slow motion frame inserted to graphically illustrate the rolling wrist motion that is so necessary to express this Classical era music with beauty and grace.

Note that behind tempo practicing, along with separate hands is always recommended.

Rondo movement in tempo:


Avoiding Pencil Point Playing


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Frustrated piano teacher/Frustrated student– What to do next? (Video)

A timely comment was posted at my blog site which echoed my own frustration at times about teaching piano. Here’s the spark for my current writing and it comes from a music instructor in Vancouver:

“I do have the odd students who don’t practice and never improve, and then get frustrated at their lack of progress. It’s been frustrating as a teacher because the kids are too young to understand that the reason they are not doing well is because they are not practicing, and the reason they don’t enjoy piano lessons is because they are frustrated. If they just practiced once in a while, they’d be happy!”

In a spirit of collegiality and sharing, I admit that I experience the same with younger students who are enrolled in lessons by their parents. These kids have no choice in the matter.

Some moms and dads have the idea that the Mozart Effect will filter from piano into school work without much effort. They’ve read articles in the news media about right and left brain development. These folks may be “My Baby Can Read” subscribers whose diapered tots were raising their tiny hands to letter prompts on a big screen, while Gerber’s mashed carrots dribbled down their mouths.

My daughter used to grimace when I broke out the carrots and peas, but at the same time she was bathed in Handel’s Messiah excerpts that I blasted on a cassette player.

Now she’s a world class writer/editor having done the WORK even as a child to develop her language skills. NO Baby Einstein tapes here, or Baby Can Read early exposures. Just READ, READ, and finish your homework in each grade up to college and beyond.

Back to piano:

By example, I had a very gifted 9-year old music student, who winged it from week to week. This was between lessons after we together focused on step-by-step ways to obtain lovely phrasing and expression. She was spoon-fed a meticulous practicing process in the hopes she would follow through.

If she decided otherwise, I knew the handwriting was on the wall. She would grow “bored” with the piece we were working on, and eventually complain to her mother, that lessons were just not “fun.”

Hearing the word fun applied these days to nearly every activity minus any work, is growing old and tired with me.

Jonas Salk may have had a passion for experimenting as a child, but he had to DO THE WORK, to make a contribution to the world down the line.

Piano teachers are not asking their students to conquer competitions in international venues or make a resounding impact in a universe of musicians.

We just want to give them the music education they deserve if they would meet us half way.

So how did I finally deal with the student who plodded along without much if any practicing?

Well, I invited mom in to observe one of her daughter’s lessons, since this parent had not been present from day one to see what was playing out at lessons. She was overloaded with full-time job obligations.

And dad, a University educator had no way to check in, due to his involvement in Department matters.

These parental absences in my opinion strongly factored into the student’s inertia. Dropped off by a baby-sitter, she felt like piano was the next care-taking station, but even worse there was another assignment lurking.

So far, bringing the mother front and center into the lessons, has been an eye-opener for her.

She began to see that her child could not sit back and expect the piece to be practiced all by itself. A commitment of time, energy, and mindful attention was needed to spur progress, interest, and attendant wells of joy and good feeling. I needed mom’s backing and involvement. And she needed to make sure her daughter set aside daily quality time to refine her pieces.

I’m now carefully monitoring the situation, providing lots of positive strokes in response to the student’s conscientious work.

As strange as it may sound, creating You Tube videos of playing that has improved through daunting applications of good practicing has been a motivator for this student and others.

These children want their friends to see them shine on the big screen, and it has the secondary gain of pushing the peers along in the same direction.

I now have three 9-year olds who are in healthy competition to master their pieces and display their accomplishment at any opportunity.

This has been a turn-around that I hope has a lasting effect.

We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ve learned how vital a parent’s presence is in the triad of support we need to make lessons a happy experience for all.

Below is an example of another 9-year old student, videotaped for You Tube, after she produced three consecutive weeks of good practicing on Gillock’s “Argentina.”

Enrolled in a bi-lingual (Spanish/English) immersion program, she has enjoyed the romp with pieces in Latino style.

(I’m told that my voice is not clear or loud enough on this video, but just the same the first two phrases that the student demonstrates should come through with definition)

I’m so proud of Ilyana! (her early, conscientious efforts)

The whole piece matured in baby steps.

This approach turned her playing around, increasing her interest in practicing with an eye and ear to detail.

At the Student Recital:


How long should a piano student stay with a piece?


Piano Lessons: Skimming the Surface or Getting Deeply Involved?


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Bach to basics, Bach to nature, and Bach forever! (Videos)

When it comes right down to it, I’m always drawn back to Bach for solace, counsel, wisdom, insight, and more. He was the Father of our Western music in all its infinite forms.

In the composer’s ingenious 2 volume, Well-Tempered Clavier, Bach explored all keys around the Circle of Fifths in impeccable counterpoint. It’s the gold standard in keyboard learning and the musical equivalent of the Bible.

During the past few weeks, I’d been pleasantly enduring a Bach fever that had swept me off my feet and onto the piano bench.

In this exalted spirit, yesterday and into the night, to the dismay of my neighbors, I recorded the Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 847–WTC I (Don’t ask how many times I pressed the Capture Event button on my iMac) And for each undying effort, I typed in a title with an auto-suggestion, like I was coaching myself ringside for a big match:

“Relax,” “Take it slow,” For God sakes, LISTEN,” “pep talk again,” “You’re not listening,” “Where’s the darn melody?” “Control tempo,” “Where are you racing?” “Courage,” “Fortitude,” “Give it another whirl,” “Oh come on, don’t give up,” and the beat goes on….

Now the Prelude poses the same challenge as WTC Prelude no. 1 in the parallel C MAJOR, because a melody is ingrained in the harmony but must lead the player, measure by measure through a miasma of notes. It’s easy for the busy-body 16ths in both works to become the mainstay of the music, but resist the temptation. The Messiah melody emerges if you listen intently through a magnificently created Harmonic rhythm. (Block out the harmonies or chords as a start)

The Fugue in BWV 847 is the next challenge. It’s crafted in three voices, with each needing recognition and not any, falling by the wayside. Some performers like to whiz through it, others linger. I tend to place myself somewhere in the middle.

To parcel out each voice in the very beginning of learning is a must, not to mention the value of selecting a voice and combining it with one other, until you have permuted them in such way that the mosaic is thoroughly understood. Patience, patience and even more are required.

So after all was said and done, here’s what finally rose from the dead and made it to You Tube.

RELATED: Exploring the chordal outline of the Prelude by blocking out harmonies


Claudia, age 11, a piano student, plays the Prelude with me in duet form, 4 hands, two pianos. We’re at practice tempo.

Bach to Nature (Okay, so music historians are now questioning whether J.S. Bach really wrote this, and claim his son, C.P.E. is the true creator)

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Playing piano and getting into the spirit (Video with Aiden cat joining in)

It’s holiday time, and we’re all eating with gusto. In honor of Thanksgiving, we completely let go, pardoning ourselves of any rigid diet that would preclude an all out splurge.

So now, enter the piano, as a feast of delights waiting for the player to partake without a hint of holding back. It seems like climbing a mountain.

Agreed that you must learn the notes carefully at first and parcel out the fingering, etc. It takes patience. A famous piano teacher, Irena Orlov, from the Levine School of Music in D.C. recommends that students master one measure per day, particularly when faced with technically challenging pieces. Just imagine how well a pupil would know the Mozart Rondo Allegretto K. 545 after just 76 days! Not an impossible task, considering that a baby needs more than a year to learn to walk.

It’s all relative….

Tonight I was shuffling between my Haddorff console and Steinway grand piano, deciding which instrument would best suit the Mozart I had previously mentioned, and then again, Aiden was bench hopping so I allowed it because of the holidays. I reasoned, why not include him in a recording session in between turkey treat nibbles. He needn’t be shooed into the bedroom in solitary confinement every time I attempted to capture some music on my Imac.

Sad to say, by lifting restrictions on his comings and goings, he killed two especially good readings of the Rondo. In one he managed to squiggle off the piano bench, meandering his way to the window sill where he orchestrated his usual racket. (When iMac is capturing an EVENT he knows just when to paw the shutters to bring any and all music to a grinding halt) Naturally, as soon as I sense his general direction, my playing begins to deteriorate. A glaring case of anticipatory anxiety.

Irena Orlov would have interjected in her Russian accent, but dorogaya moya, Дорогая моя (“my dear”) you hev to learn to concentrate.. and maybe you need to think one measure at a time.”

Redux: Aiden did it again, but on the third warning, he abandoned his monkey business and jumped off the piano bench and settled into his favorite chair. (off camera)

What has all this to do with playing piano and getting into the spirit?

The basic lesson to be learned is that you must find a place within yourself where music totally absorbs you and allows no room for distraction.

What other reason is there to take up the piano in the first place if not to be immersed in a spiritual process.


Tonight after I had gorged myself silly on turkey, homemade stuffing, and pumpkin pie, I wobbled over to the piano, and reclaimed my right to channel Mozart without a hitch. Aiden was hanging around being otherwise quiet until…

That’s in the past now, because the Mozart Rondo made it to You Tube while two other playings were “moved to the trash.”


Link to Documentary about Irena Orlov:


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A different view of Bach and the piano (Prelude in C) Video

On a whim, I decided to keep my Mac at a distance from the Steinway, walk over to the piano without being too conspicuous, and offhandedly play the Bach Prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Since I hadn’t yet mastered the editing side of iMovie, I figured a majestic lead into the playing would still work even with my back turned to the camera as I made my way to the piano bench.

In any case, I would preserve unedited moments with the flick of my Sony Cyber-shot digital if I had successfully trimmed the footage.

The upper screen had the original frames before they were transferred to the editing arena down below.

So here’s how it played out after I had managed editing and uploading. (A sigh of relief!)