Acoustic piano hitting a high note on P.E.I.

Piano lessons and sales are becoming popular with newcomers.

Why are sales and lessons booming?

Nguyen Thi Le Uyen wanted her son to play piano to help with other aspects of his education. (Julia Cook)

It's a Friday night at Long & McQuade Music Store in Charlottetown and students are darting in and out of practice rooms. Many are newcomers to Canada who have come to take music lessons at Long & McQuade. Most of these students are here for piano lessons and may not speak English.

But Laura MacLeod, the music lessons co-ordinator, said music is a universal language.

"We just have the music on the page and a lot of the teachers can just point to the music and show the student how it sounds," said MacLeod.

In the last few years, Long & McQuade has seen a huge increase in their acoustic piano sales that the business credits to the increase of newcomers to P.E.I. While the business used to sell about 11 acoustic pianos each year (most of them uprights), now it sells closer to 21. That may not sound like a huge increase, but that means tens of thousands of dollars more in sales.

There's also been double the number of music students in their programs. For the people at Long & McQuade, this is good news — not just because it means more money. It's also about seeing the growth of music on P.E.I.

"Seeing it every day and the young kids grow up and transition into gigging musicians," said Dave Skinner, the manager at Long & McQuade. "It pulls at the piano heart strings.

"We want our children to play the piano."

Nguyen Thi Le Uyen bought a piano for her family when they arrived from Vietnam a couple of years ago. She also enrolled her son, David, in lessons.

"Firstly, it helps the brain because when you're good with piano, you're good with math," said Nguyen.

"The other thing, now, maybe they don't like it, but when they can get used to it and they can play it, when they're growing up and they have stress, they can have the piano to release that stress."

Among her friends, eight of them have acoustic pianos and have their children in lessons. She doesn't play piano, which is another reason she wants her son to pursue it.

The beauty of an acoustic piano

For newcomers, such as Nguyen, there was no choice other than buying an acoustic piano rather than the cheaper electronic piano.

"They say if you play with the electronic one your children may lose some kind of skill or something like that," she said.

Mark Cerisano is a registered piano technician. (Julia Cook)

Mark Cerisano, a registered piano technician, has to agree and isn't surprised newcomers would prefer the sound of an acoustic.

"It's a warmer sound. So when you play an acoustic piano the whole piano is vibrating, the lid, the legs, the soundboard, the string. But no matter how good they get with electronic pianos it's just going to be a speaker," Cerisano said.

He hasn't seen a huge increase in the number of piano repairs and tunings he's done on P.E.I., but there are others who have.

Growth across P.E.I.

Stephanie Cole, a piano teacher and president of the P.E.I. Registered Music Teachers' Association, said it's not only Long & McQuade that has seen this increased interest in piano. 

"Based on my own experience and conversations with other teachers, I would say that there is quite a healthy demand for piano lessons," Cole said.

"In recent years, an increasing number of the students we see participating in the music festivals and PEIRMTA's Young Musicians Recital Series are newcomers to P.E.I. It's certainly nice to see a strong interest in learning the piano."

MacLeod, music lessons co-ordinator and teacher at Long & McQuade, said it's not only the students that are learning.

"I can hear the music from my desk and I've been learning new songs from students as well. I play piano as well and I've asked students, 'What's this song?' and they say 'It's very popular in China in a movie and now it's very popular here as well.'"

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