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Steinway Piano Gallery comes to Greensboro

by Rich Lewis

How do you sell a $100,000 piano in a time of budget cuts and cheap plug and play instruments?

If you are Mark Love, CEO of Steinway Piano Gallery in Greensboro, the answer is that it takes a lot of passion, and commitment to developing the right environment. After opening a store in Charlotte in 2014 and seeing good success there, Love and his wife Katherine, who is also his partner in the enterprise, decided that the Triad would be their next stop.

“The Triad is certainly a center for arts and culture in North Carolina,” he said. “Greensboro wasn’t my first choice since I wasn’t from here, but some educators, particularly Thomas Swenson from The Music Academy of North Carolina, got me to take a second look. I saw that Greensboro has been growing, still is growing and should continue to do so. The city also has a vibrant passion for the arts.”

They settled in with a location at Jefferson Village near New Garden Road, just between The Fresh Market and Starbucks. Inside, pianos cover most the of the floor space – uprights, baby grands and grand pianos from makers like Boston, Essex and the granddaddy of them all, Steinway. They’re all beautiful and have a sound to match, but there’s something about the Steinway seven-foot long model that dominates the performance space. It could be the sheer beauty of it, or perhaps the $104,000 price tag.

“That name is a double-edged sword for us,” Love acknowledged. “Steinway is the best manufacturer of pianos in the world, so the name means something to people. They also know that it means these instruments are expensive.”

Love said his company takes the approach that while they offer a great product, they are still a small business. While they do offer more moderately priced models, do some rentals and even sell some used models, they understand that they have to create an environment that supports the music scene and overall music education. Beyond sales to individuals, they also have to work with educational institutions – not just to provide them with quality instruments but to sow the seeds for the upcoming generation of piano enthusiasts and players.

One of the ways they do this is by hosting performances within the Steinway Piano Gallery for the public that can feature professional players. The performances can showcase many types of music, from classical to jazz, gospel and even rock. At their Charlotte store, John Fogarty’s keyboardist Bob Malone played and had such a good time that he will be coming to the Greensboro store for a performance alongside local songwriter Kristy Jackson. Events are a great way to grow community music awareness and support the arts, but Love also works extensively with local educators, too.

“We’ve been working with the UNCG faculty to bring in Steinways for their students,” he said. “And we’re working with Elon University to make them an all Steinway campus. We’ve also partnered with Weaver Academy to do fundraising for a seven-foot Steinway piano so the students there can have that experience.”

He’s also worked with a few churches in the area as well. “The thing is,” he explained, “that a Steinway will be the least expensive piano for a church or school over the length of the instrument’s life. These pianos can serve for generations.”

For many people, especially children, churches and schools are where they get their first taste of music education. Getting quality instruments into those places can have a profound effect on children’s development.

Love has made a career of selling pianos, and for decades he has been working to preserve music education in the school systems. “I’ve worked a lot with K-12 systems in the Philadelphia area and ended up serving on a number of non-profit boards like Musicopia and Violins Not Violence, just trying to preserve children’s access to music in school.”

“They’ve been getting rid of arts and music education in our schools,” he said. “They don’t realize that if you take 300 kids, 100 of them will be involved in sports and develop life skills there. The next 100 may all be academically minded kids who really get into math and science and then there are 100 more that gain life skills from arts, theater and music. If we get rid of arts and music, what will happen to these kids?” It hits close to home for Love, who was himself a marching band kid. “Music was my life ring when I was in high school. I came from a rural area, there wasn’t much for us, we didn’t have much money and music gave me what I needed to stay in school and learn.”

“I had no idea when I left home and headed to Boston out of school with just the clothes I was carrying that the music would lead to this. I grew up thinking as a California kid I was going to be the next Mick Jagger. It didn’t work out that way but that music in school started me onto this path.”

He might not be one of the Rolling Stones, but he’s done very well for himself in the decades since. And he can count some pretty big names among his clients. Elton John, Billy Joel and even Winston-Salem’s own Ben Folds play Steinways he has sold.

If you’d like more information, please stop by the Steinway Piano Gallery at 1562 Highwoods Blvd., Suite A in Greensboro. You can also swing by their website at steinwaypgg.com and sign up for their newsletter, which will let you know about upcoming performances at the store. !

RICH LEWIS is a father, husband, writer and cook who makes his home in Greensboro, NC.

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