When Wellesley High School vocalists walk into the choir room this year, they will be greeted by a visually stunning sight — a Yamaha C7 grand piano, which was formerly in use at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.
This addition to the WHS performing arts family was made possible by the Wellesley Public Schools and Falcetti Pianos in Natick, and The Swellesley Report has the exclusive story about how it all came together.
Here’s the story of how Dr. Kevin McDonald, Director of Choral Activities at WHS; the WPS Business Office; former Director of Performing Arts, Dr. Sabrina Quintana (who tendered her resignation last spring); and Choral Accompanist Chad Weirick came to the decision that it was no longer financially responsible to continue to make repairs to the program’s old workhorse of a piano and found a way to score an $82k instrument at a discount that sang deeper than a basso profundo.
A Piano Past its Prime
According to McDonald, “After more than 40 years of quality and extensive use, the choir room piano was in need of a significant repair. The piano could no longer hold a tuning even for a few rehearsals. Certain strings would actually come loose or break within days of minor repairs. After consulting several professional piano technicians, it was estimated that to repair our piano, it would range anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.”
Given the big numbers to rehab, it was decided that putting more money into a piano that was not functional was not financially responsible when a new piano could be purchased for the same amount of money or less than the major repair on the table. “With 320 students registered in the Wellesley Choral Program, five curricular choral ensembles, and four extra-curricular choral ensembles, the choir room piano serves about 20% of the student body and is played on average 7-8 hours per day. It was simply the time to purchase a new piano,” McDonald said.
But making the decision to buy a new piano is one thing. Finding a dulcet-toned instrument that can put in the kind of hours the WHS choral program demands at a public-schools price point is another matter. But the thing about McDonald (affectionately known around school as Dr. Mac), is that he’s sort of a go big or go home kind of guy. Any old piano wasn’t going to do. There would be drama involved.
Falcetti to Wellesley High’s Rescue
After consulting vendors, trying new pianos, and gathering price quotes, McDonald asked Accompanist Weirick to visit Falcetti Music Co., a family-owned business based in Western Massachusetts that recently opened a store on Rt. 9 in Natick. As a Western Massachusetts native, McDonald grew up going to Falcetti with his mom who was a church organist. So there’s some history there, and the representatives at Falcetti were certainly pleased to help an old customer and support the Wellesley Public Schools. They probably didn’t know then how much support they’d be asked to give.
As McDonald and Weirick narrowed their search to three specific pianos at Falcetti’s, the sales rep brought them to see one more piano — a 2010 Yamaha C7 Piano that had been used for only two years as the rehearsal piano for the Metropolitan Opera (what?!). It looked and sounded great, but the retail price was listed as $81,999. MacDonald says that professional organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic rotate instruments every two years. “Therefore, this piano sat in the manufacturer’s warehouse since 2010, then was used at the Metropolitan Opera for two years, at which time the piano was acquired by Falcetti. This piano is an exact match for our current stage piano at the high school that Wellesley POPS (Parents of Performing Students) purchased at the opening of the new high school,” he said.
Then the bargaining began. McDonald said, “In discussion with Falcetti’s, I shared what a great piano the Yamaha C7 is but the $81,999 cost would need to be less than half the listed price in order to be considered with the other pianos that we were proposing to the business office…Falcetti’s offered the Wellesley Public Schools this world-class piano for $29,800 including trade-in allowance for the old choir room piano. Falcetti’s intentionally lowered the price of the piano so it would fall below the quotes of other vendors in order to complete the transaction.”
And that’s how it’s done, people.