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Partners for Pianos raising funds to replace high school’s worn-out piano

Park Rapids High School’s 45-year-old baby grand piano is on its last pedals.  

Partners for Pianos, a   newly formed nonprofit group, hopes to raise the pitch for a new one to a crescendo.  “The school’s grand piano has been literally falling apart and wearing out beyond repair,” co-chair Roz Pederson wrote in a letter seeking donations from individuals and various community organizations.  

Pederson played piano accompaniment at the high school for the past 20-plus years. She resigned last December.  “I just decided now was the time I wanted to give something back. I’m just hoping people will be generous,” she said.  Her husband, Garnett, is the other co-chair of Partners for Pianos.  Current school expenses, structural repairs and activities budgets prevent the school district from purchasing a new piano, Roz said.  

Partners for Pianos wants to rally a symphony of individuals, clubs and businesses to raise the $48,000 necessary to buy a grand piano and a smaller, upright studio piano.  An additional studio piano for rehearsal use would help preserve the grand, say the Pedersons.  The goal is to purchase both pianos before the end of this year. The grand piano is top priority.  In addition to reaching out to the community for funding, Roz said Partners for Pianos has applied for various grants.  High School Choir Director LouAnn Dierkhising agreed the need for a new piano is very strong. The sound on the current onehas deteriorated, she said.  

“By the serial number, it looks like it was made with a limited number of pianos for Story and Clark around 1969-1970,” Dierkhising said.  Based on references from owners of similar pianos with close serial numbers and several phone calls, Dierkhising estimates the piano is 45 years old.  “You can sometimes find home pianos of that age and older, but usually a school piano or college piano of that wear has become their second or rehearsal only piano. School pianos like ours are generally used so much more frequently,” Dierkhising explained.  

The piano is heavily used year ‘round for school, community and arts events.  “That’s the main piano for the town. It has served the community well. It’s been a workhorse,” Dierkhising said.  A good piano will last decades, she noted, serving several generations of music students.  Muff Magelssen, a piano technician, wrote, “Park Rapids has an extraordinary choral department. We need an extraordinary piano. The current grand piano has aging parts and an aging sound, and is more of a living room piano. A new performance piano would enhance accompaniment capabilities and sounds as well as serve as a solo instrument for the Heartland Concert Association.”  “The piano has been difficult to achieve a fine tuning because of the aging strings.

Hammer felts have been worn down and even replacing them wouldn’t give a fine tuning because of the string situation,” Magelssen said.  “I believe the piano reached its full potential long ago!”  Bill and Bobbi Zigmant voiced their approval of the effort, writing, “The piano is used by world-class artists that perform as part of the Heartland Concert series. Members of the series and artists have commented on the poor piano quality.”  

Paul Dove, Northern Light Opera Company’s music director, also wrote a testimonial: “The PRAHS choral music program has a great need for a quality piano; music students need to establish high aural standards. New pianos at the high school would be a gigantic gift to the community.”  Donations to Partners for Pianos fund are 100 percent tax deductible as a charitable contribution.  For more information, contact Roz or Garnett Pederson at 732-5225.

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