Everett High School sophomore Dayne Miller-Wang plays a newly donated baby grand piano during rehearsals at the school Wednesday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Everett High School sophomore Dayne Miller-Wang plays a newly donated baby grand piano during rehearsals at the school Wednesday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Everett High School gets a grand gift for band classes

A Ballard artist donated her six-foot grand piano, valued at $13,000, at the perfect time.

EVERETT — Brilliant in black, a grand piano’s keys will be stroked for years to come at Everett High School.

A teacher’s request, a Seattle nonprofit’s preparations and a serendipitous donation worth at least $13,000 led to a timely addition to the Seagulls band room. It now hosts a six-foot Kohler & Campbell grand piano, ready for regular play by students.

“It’s incredible, just unbelievable,” said Megan Vinther, Everett High’s band teacher since 2010.

The school’s band students had played a couple of pianos in recent years. Through use and time, those were no longer up to snuff.

“We use the piano every single day,” Vinther said, later adding, “What we’ve used in the past wouldn’t hold tuning, so it wouldn’t sound right.”

Vinther asked Music4Life to keep an eye out for a replacement. The Seattle-based nonprofit receives and repairs used instruments, then donates them to schools in the Edmonds, Everett, Highline, Mukilteo, Seattle and Shoreline districts. David Endicott, Music4Life’s president and co-founder, helped create the program in Everett in November 2016.

To date, it has sent 240 ready-to-play instruments into Everett schools. In the Everett program’s first 10 months, Music4Life delivered 87 instruments to students in need.

Between December 2017 and February 2018, Everett schools received 37 instruments from Music4Life. The school district reported the market value at $27,002 for the string bass, cello, viola, alto sax, French horn, oboe, keyboard, digital piano, snare drum, percussion set, bass guitar amplifier, two acoustic guitars, two amplifiers, two clarinets, two trumpets, three flutes, six electric guitars, and nine violins.

The inside of a Kohler & Campbell baby grand piano is seen at Everett High School on Wednesday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

The inside of a Kohler & Campbell baby grand piano is seen at Everett High School on Wednesday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Endicott estimated the nonprofit has donated hundreds and maybe thousands of instruments to Puget Sound-area students since it officially launched in 2009. Every year since, its programs have spread to more school districts. Music 4Life takes just about every kind of instrument, evaluates its condition and determines whether or not it can be repaired and salvaged. Pianos are a more challenging instrument to receive because of the difficulty of finding a new home where one will be properly maintained. Schools often already have pianos, he added, but lack the means to regularly care for them.

“I get two or three calls a week from people wanting to donate their pianos to us,” Endicott said. “In almost all cases they’re uprights and we simply can’t use them.

“One in 100 might be a baby grand or a grand piano.”

Kat Taylor’s glossy, almost onyx piano was that one. A lifelong hobby pianist and “one of those people who took piano lessons in grade school and enjoyed playing all my life,” Taylor got the Kohler & Campbell not long after moving to the Seattle neighborhood 14 years ago. In the past year, the Ballard sculptor found herself ready to part with her piano, which she affectionately called her “panther.”

“It sat in my house and I’ve enjoyed playing at it, composing on it, relaxing over the years,” she said. “I’m 70 now and realized I’m not playing it that much.”

A quick search connected her with Music4Life. Once Endicott saw the photos showing its immaculate condition, he knew Everett High had its new piano.

Taylor went further than offering the piano itself, estimated at a market value of $13,000. She donated the cost of moving and tuning the piano, at least another $600 and possibly another $1,000.

“It’s not often that someone will eat those costs,” Endicott said.

For her gifts, Taylor was thanked during an Everett High band concert March 21 at the Everett Auditorium. She was able to see her former piano’s new digs.

“It was so fun to see it in the music room,” she said. “The kids were crawling all over it. It was clear they were very comfortable with it.

“Several students stopped me in the hall and talked to me about how having a good piano lifted their hearts … It made me remember how having a good instrument can raise the level of your game.”

The piano donation figures to be a regular fixture in Everett High School music education. Vinther said it will stay put in the band room, where it will get the most use by about 100 students.

“If you’re giving somebody a chance to express themselves musically, you’re not only growing their brain in great ways, but their heart and expressive nature,” Taylor said. “I think Music4Life understands that.”

With Music4Life booster clubs for Edmonds, Everett and Mukilteo schools, plenty of other people are welcome to see if their instruments are ready for a second life. Through agreements with Kennelly Keys Music, Hammond Ashley Violins, Ted Brown Music, Rafael Carrabba Violins, Donn Bennet Drums, Emerald City Guitars, the Guitar Center in Seattle and Tukwila, and Henselyn Saxophone & Clarinet Repair in Ballard, the cost of repairing the instruments is made more manageable for Music4Life. For anyone interested, there is a form available online or contact 206-409-3275 or info@music4life.org.

Though ready to see her cherished “panther” find a new home, the actual departure was a bittersweet moment. A musical serenade proved a fitting goodbye.

“I remember on the night before I let it go, I picked up my ukulele and played, ‘Take Good Care of my Baby,’ ” Taylor said.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe @heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037. Twitter @benwatanabe.

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