The Brigham & Karmel Larson Family Piano Blog - Therapy in the Piano Showroom Today

Therapy in the Piano Showroom Today

Karmel Larson

I always wanted to be a therapist. When I met Brigham, I was a social work major and applying to graduate schools to get my MSW, Masters of Social Work and to become an LCSW, or Licensed Clinical Social Worker, “AKA” - a therapist. Alas, this was not to be, for I fell in love with an entrepreneur who swept me off my feet and together we have been swept along the torrential current of entrepreneurship together for the past 23 joyful years. Today, though, I felt like I had a mini-moment of being a therapist, helping someone, simply by listening and offering support and ideas and then having the privilege of seeing how a therapeutic interaction can have profound impact.
So, a man came into the store, near closing time today, and jovially apologized for arriving so close to closing time, but not to worry, because he’d be in and out quickly... he just needed to look at some digital pianos. After assuring him that there was no need to rush, I got to know him a bit and learned that he had had a grand piano for decades that he recently gave to a granddaughter so he was looking to replace it with a small digital to fit in his recently downsized 55+ community home.
I asked him some more questions and asked him if he might consider a small acoustic. He politely declined and I continued to hold firm in politely further reviewing with him why I thought he’d be unhappy with a digital after playing for decades on an acoustic grand piano. He told me that I sounded pretty opinionated about digitals and I laughed, telling him, “If you think I’m opinionated about them, you should hear my husband talk about digital-acoustic comparisons.”
He continued to hold onto the idea that he needed a digital, saying that an upright wouldn’t fit his new smaller space. So I gave the case for acoustic one final chance by challenging him with, “Well, I have a measuring tape in my desk... if we can find an acoustic upright that has the same width footprint as a digital, might it be an option for you.” He gave me a defeated and grateful smile and watched as I measured a small acoustic. When he saw that it measured 57 inches wide, he said, “Yeah, I guess that would fit” and he sat down to play.
I assured him that he would be so much happier with an acoustic piano, to not just “hear” the electronic recording of music, but to “experience” the rich blends of tones of real music and to feel the music vibrating out to his ears and his whole body from the soundboard of an acoustic piano. He sat down to play and that is when the therapeutic magic happened. As his fingers began to play memorized sonatas, he got emotional. He paused and apologizing for his emotions said, “I’m sorry, it’s been so long since I’ve played.”
I smiled and gave him a strong pat on the back, encouraging him to keep playing while I went to get him some sheet music to choose from. He played for a while and by now, Brigham had arrived to meet our guest and answer a few questions. He began to play some more and again got teared up, pausing to confide in us the source of his emotion. He shared that he had a severely disabled adult daughter who is unable to speak, but that her joys in life are music and popcorn and he needed a piano again to play music for her.
Continuing to play, he emotionally shared more and we discovered that he was not only taking care of his adult disabled daughter, but was also the caregiver for his wife, who had recently had many strokes. As I listened to him share about his life, as he would pause between playing portions of sonatas, to wipe away his tears, I told him, “I think you need a piano again for your own joy as much as to play music for your wife and daughter.”
He smiled in agreement and continued to play. I went back to my desk as Brigham continued to answer his questions about pianos and my heart was so full of joy to have been a witness to the therapeutic power of music, to touch the souls and hearts of man. Music can heal our hurts, add joy to our days and provide benefits and soul stirring emotions that other interactions and words are left wanting to express. So, today I got to be an “assistant therapist”, the REAL therapist was an acoustic piano.

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