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The Robinson Family Piano!

Brigham Larson Pianos

Throughout the generations in my family, playing the piano has been a defining heritage. However, it is a heritage that I never thought would directly be part of my life. I started taking piano lessons at the age of eight and was starting to catch on. But, being the oldest child in a family that was just starting out, there were many changes. No sooner would I get settled with a teacher, then Dad would switch jobs and we would move. Often this meant that it would be quite a while before I got a new piano teacher and by then I would have to start all over again. Needless to say I never learned how to play the piano. As I grew up I developed a love for family history. One major aspect of that history, I found, was the love and service my ancestors were able to give through sharing their talents of playing the piano. My great great grandmother Clara Mae White began playing piano at 10 years old. When she was 15 years old she started teaching school to the local children in our town (all 83 of them). With the earnings she received she bought a brand-new piano in 1899. Later she attended school at the Brigham Young Academy and took piano lessons from the daughter of Karl G. Maeser. She soon graduated and moved home and began playing for church and civic activities as well as teaching piano lessons. This she did for more than 50 years. She instilled a love of music in her children. Her daughter, my great grandma, was also named Clara. She began playing the piano around the age of 10. The love of music and the piano was at the forefront of her life. She played for church services, weddings, children’s school programs, town plays, dances and funerals. A local newspaper once wrote that if music was needed for any setting in our town and county the only thing that could be done was to “call Clara." By her own counting from 1956 to 1981, when she passed away, she had played for 456 funerals alone. And that doesn't even include the many she played in prior to 1956. She was called out of the audience several times with no preparation to accompany church notables such President Joseph Fielding Smith and His wife Jesse Evans Smith, Elder John Longden and others. Her favorite thing to do, though, was to gather her children and grandchildren and accompany them as they sang. She instilled in them a love for the piano and the joy that it brings. Whenever Grandma Clara is talked about, stories of her at the piano are sure to follow. They are inseparably connected. Sadly, Grandma Clara passed away at the age of 66 in 1981. I never knew her, but I grew up hearing the many wonderful stories of her and her piano. Many of my favorite memories have been with my own Grandma Linda who learned to play the piano from her mother, Clara. No Christmas yet has been complete without gathering around the piano at grandma’s house and singing carols. My grandma in the spirit of her mother and grandmother, still plays for church services and accompanies anyone who requests it. When she sits down at the piano, she lights up. I watched her intently as a boy and could see the dedication and feeling she put into each note. She is a very talented lady. With all that, you can imagine that when I came along and never learned to play the piano, I felt a little left out of the family circle. For generations my family has been able to share their love of music and talents with others. This they did as a service because of their love for their talent and their community. When I married my sweetheart, one of the things that attracted me most to Hannah was her love for the piano. In some way I felt that I could carry the family tradition of music by marrying someone who enjoyed music as much as I do and who could help our children come to love it too. My wife’s Grandma Bonnie grew up during the great depression and learned to play the piano by ear. One of the families only physical possessions was an old upright piano. Often they did not have a home and lived in tents in a logging camp in Westwood California, but wherever the family went the piano came too. They would load it up in the 1928 Chevy pickup truck along with the tent, a stove, chickens, and quilts and move to the next town where work hopefully could be found. There was no time nor money for lessons and so Grandma Bonnie learned to play by ear. Most times playing from the back of the truck as it was safer to leave it in the bed than unload and reload it. She was a beautiful pianist and could play a song sometimes even having only heard it once. She played for many family gatherings and shared her gifts with us. This is how my wife came to love the piano and spent many hours playing with her grandma by her side. During Grandma Bonnie’s last illness in 2021 my wife was expecting our fourth child and wasn’t able to help grandma very much. So, I was the one who would go and spend nights with her to help her as she couldn't be alone. She told me one night to play the piano. I said “Grandma, you know I don’t play." She told me, you can play and should. She was really struggling at that time and so I changed the subject. She passed away a few weeks after that. Somehow, I could not stop thinking about what she told me. I sat down at the piano and looked at an old video I had of Grandma Bonnie playing the piano. With a little help from my wife and some practice I also learned to play the piano by ear. I now can pick up on songs and play them with a little practice. I have started to accompany some of our local church classes. I can’t tell you what a connection I feel with the loved ones in my family, past and present, who have shared so much of their lives through playing the piano. Even though I did not know some of them, because I have developed this talent, I feel as if I know them better and we have a deeper connection. It has truly made a difference in my life and I feel blessed to play the piano. My children Tamri, Darci and Clara (named after my Great Grandma) are now taking piano lessons and I hope they will be able to carry on our family’s heritage of playing the piano.
The story of our piano starts in 2021. My wife’s Grandma, Bonnie, was very ill and was talking to my wife and I about growing up and how she learned to play the piano. She loved her piano so much and it brought her many years of happy memories. It particularly was a comfort to her after her husband had passed away. Playing it brought her through that experience. However, as much as she loved her piano, she always wished she had the old upright piano she had when she was young. My wife’s Grandma Bonnie grew up playing the piano by ear during the depression. One of the families only physical possessions was an old upright piano. At times they did not have a home and lived in tents in a logging camp in Westwood California, but wherever the family went the piano went too. They would load it up in the 1928 Chevy pickup truck along with the tent, a stove, chickens, quilts, and supplies and move to the next town where work hopefully would be found. There was no time nor money for lessons and so Grandma Bonnie learned to play by ear. Sadly, later as a young mother Grandma was forced to sell that piano when her family experienced financial troubles. Grandma told my wife and I to look for an old upright piano and we couldn’t go wrong. Over the next several months I was looking online for a piano. I came across an add for an upright Ivers and Pond piano. The add read “$50, needs to be gone ASAP. If not, its headed to the dump. Don’t know anything about it so don’t ask”. The piano, weathered by years, was still beautiful. The case has such beautiful workings and reflects the craftsmanship of a bygone time. I talked to my wife and showed the piano to Grandma Bonnie. She was struck with how beautiful it was and said that the manufacturer was a reliable name. She said, for $50 you can’t really go wrong. We got the piano and cleaned it up. We soon learned that it was an Ivers and Pond upright piano made in the early 1880’s. With a little tender love and care I got it playable and we have fallen in love with it. As I sit and play it, I like to think of all the people who owned this piano before we did. What were their lives like? What times they must have spent gathered around this piano singing carols at Christmas time. Could it have been played for dances, children's birthdays or to celebrate the end of war times? Surely, it must have created an atmosphere of joy in good times and provided comfort in times of sadness and disappointment. I was heartbroken thinking that it could have ended up in a landfill. I am so grateful it is a part of my family’s life. We would be honored if we were selected to have our old piano rebuilt. It would be used to teach and expand the talents of many generations of my family to come. Thereby continuing the great heritage left to us by our loved ones who have gone before us.

  • YEAR 1890-1900
  • MAKE Generations of Grandma's love for piano music echo through the keys, connecting past and present!
  • FINISH Oak
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