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Baby Grand!

Our senior high school has been aproached with an offer to "borrow" (indefinitely) a baby grand.  It seems as though we could just say it's ours, but the reality could be that at some point it is taken back.  Circumstances are that the owner lives several states away and would rather see the piano being used than in storage.
We are questioning A) would it fit in our space? B) will it be taken care of by student body C) Should it be used for rehearsal in the music room or kept on the stage for performances(less secure for our school)?
I hate to say "no" to a free piano, but I'm just not sure.  Any thoughts?
on May 2, 2014 11:35am
Dear Ciara:
It's like all those free cell phone deals -- the upfront cost is free, "... but..." It is really nice that someone needs a home for their piano, and hopes that your organization can use and enjoy their instrument. You just have to ensure that it is a good deal for all concerned.
Definitely make sure the piano will fit in your allotted space; and be sure it will fit the needs of your organzation. Proper care and use of the piano by your organization's population is a major consideration, since you do not want this wonderful "free piano" to turn into wired firewood or kindling (esp. when you do not even own it!).
If you are going ahead with this opportunity, have a piano technician assess it's condition and tune it upon entry into your building. Have it tuned and adjusted regularly. If possible, find a lockable space or room for it, to it from being abused after-hours. Does the piano need to be insured? Who is responsible for who gets to use the piano? Who is responsible in the event that something unexpected occurs?
Ron Isaacson
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 3, 2014 7:22am
We were recipients of a free baby grand piano last year, from a local couple who called our district office and offered it. Be sure to go to the piano's current home, play it, open it up, give it a really good look-see. Many people's definition of "great condition" is not yours or mine -- we've had some definite CLUNKERS offered to us!  Then, after you've determined if it will fit in your space and it's a piano worth storing for someone, make arrangements to have it professionally moved to your school.  Our maintenance men offered to go get it, but I asked them if they knew how to protect the soundboard, remove the legs, etc. They were baffled that anyone would need to do that, so I called our District Office and insisted on professionals, who charged us $125 and was worth every penny of it.  Ron suggested the professional tuner-technician, and I totally agree.
Once our "new" baby grand was in position in our choir room, I realized that it does not move easily. Chances are, a baby grand in a home was not on a dolly like most pianos in churches and schools are. So you may be liable for the cost of one of those ($600-1000).  Otherwise, like our current donation, the piano will stay in one place. You don't dare move it more than an inch or two on its "wheels" -- you must pick it up to move it across the room!!! And it's HEAVY! 
I taught my students what was acceptable behavior on the piano, to keep it in nice condition. Ours is locked up in the choir room and only available to choir and band students. As far as insurance goes, ours is now owned by the school. But the people you are storing it for, need to realize that this is a school and that it may not be returned in exactly the same condition. Bumps happen. Other things happen. I definitely would find some way to insure it.  Talk to the business folks in your school or district office.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 3, 2014 7:34am
Hi, I agree with Ron, with the following additions: You are leaving yourself wide-open for liability to replace the piano, should any catastrophic event happen, therefore you would probably want to insure it, and that will cost dollars (if you can even get it insured).  If this person is so magnanomous why doesn't he/she just donate it to the school and take a tax deduction?  I see more down sides than up-sides to this and I would be very careful how this is handled.
Best of Luck
Jim Filosa
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 3, 2014 1:30pm
As to verifying its condition, sure.  Check the soundboard for cracks, the action for ease, the tuning pins for stability.   As to how to move it, really.   My piano technician mentor David Andrews at Eastman was about 5' 1", pudgy, but could move a 9' Steinway D by himself.  It's just technique.   Someone needs to learn to move it!    You need a box and a dolly, take off one leg, lower it to the box, roll it up on its edge,  take off the other legs, lift one end and shove a 4-wheel dolly under, and lower it.  Roll it anywhere (stairs another issue, but I've navigated those, too with 3 people involved.)   I've never done a 9' by myself, but a 6' is easy.   As to liability to replace, a simple agreement suffices: the donor understands an act of God might destroy it, and you understand that reasonable care is to be used. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 3, 2014 6:29pm
New, Used or borrowed, the piano does no one any good if it is not used. The more it is played, the better it get...IF it is in good regulation and repair.  This is an object of adortion, but only normal caution and upkeep is needed. Seek recommendations from your piano tuner/tech. Certainly, it music have a padded cover which fits the instrument and a DAMP-Chaser installation which is kept filled with water regularly. PLAY IT ALL THE TIME. LET EVERYBODY PLAY AND ENJOY and use it for concerts but also your rehearsal and lesson accompaniment. If it needs it, have it regulated (touch,tuning,get the hammers moving properly. There are a million things but a tech never gets the money this is worth. A PIANO NOT PLAYED CEASES TO BE ANYTHING EXCEPT A GREAT BIG LAMPSTAND IF IT IS NOT PLAYED...even if it is multiple renditions of Hear and Soul.
NEVER use pledge on the case and get get a good, padded cover and a dolly if it is to move.  OH, and a tasteful thank you plaque.
on May 4, 2014 9:43am
All excellent suggestions.  I would emphasize the potential--maybe a probability--for misunderstanding between the parties.  Does the donor really understand the various uses and risks her piano might face?  Does she want to accept some and not others (such as which students are qualified to play it)?  Do both parties understand the condition of the piano and who bears what responsibilities for maintainence?  I would recommend something more than a simple agreement--a written understanding of the risks and responsibilites, point by point, and who assumes what.  Ask the donor/loaner if she wants it insured, locked, limited to piano students; if she wants to accept "reasonable" oversight by the school but understands that things "happen", etc etc.   
Applauded by an audience of 1
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