When he was just about three years old, Michael Stinnett, fresh from Bible Camp, climbed onto a piano bench and picked out “Jesus Loves Me” on his family piano. From that day, it sparked the beginning of a long love affair he had with the piano. Eventually, he started learning and playing the piano. Soon after, he realised that he was capable of doing more than just playing the piano, he was also pretty good at fixing them up, especially the more expensive ones.
Inside Michael Stinnett’s Antique Piano Shop, there are over hundreds of pianos in various stages of disrepair, including those that were damaged due to time, neglect or disasters. Under his own roof, there is a range of grand, baby grand, square grand, upright all the way to player piano. The collection that he currently has would be quite a big challenge to find just about anywhere else in the world. The price range for his pianos are between anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 and above. Michael’s list of customers come from many various countries and they range from the very wealthy, such as a sheik in Dubai, to a mother who simply wishes to preserve the family heirloom. “She’s restoring grandma’s piano and these kids will learn to play on the same ivory keys that grandma played and hopefully hand it down to their kids,” he stated.
As he discovered his love for music and pianos at a very young age, he went on to learn about his talent in fixing them when he was only in his teens. “When I was 14, my parents had just built a small shop in the backyard for me. I was doing pianos one at a time, on a very small scale. Buy them for 100. Sell them for 500,” he explained. Over the years, this has change as Michael’s works nowadays fetches much higher prices and more expensive pianos. “This piano right here is probably one of the most expensive pianos on the East Coast, valued at over half a million dollars, built in 1918,” he said.
He mentioned that at the end of the day, it came down to his passion for music. Presently, he works alongside a talented group of woodcarvers and artisans, who return usually priceless, but damaged heirlooms to their original luster. “There is a demand for this. Very few are doing it. Most of the technicians I’ve known have passed away. And there are not many people learning the art of piano restoration. So it’s a dying art,” Michael mentioned. For the story, click here.