Course Blog #3: Origins of my Sohmer Upright Piano

Everyone has a creative side. Despite the fact that I’m a finance major who’s constantly working with quantitative data from both small firms and the economy, I still manage to allocate some my spare time to hobbies I’m passionate about. If you have read my previous post, you would know that music and piano performance continues to be a major interest of mine. As a result, I desire to dig deeper into my personal piano to discover its history and the function it continues to serve.

The instrument I currently own is a Sohmer Upright Piano conveniently located on the first floor of my home, always ready to be played. However, though, it is important to note that this was always the case. Prior to the fall of 2015, and while I started to develop a passion for piano performance, my parents and I decided it would be appropriate to obtain a real piano to practice on. After a long summer of searching and inspecting a myriad of different instruments, eventually we came across a piano that both looked nice and had a quality sound.

Before continuing with my object’s history, I feel that it is imperative to this post that I acknowledge the schism of functionality that has arisen recently over the use of pianos in domestic households. In my opinion, people who own these very complex and elegant instruments fall into either one of two categories: the piano is used as an instrument or it is merely used as a piece of furniture. In the past few years, I have met many individuals who own a piano but are unable to actually utilize it; as a result, it usually just turns into a piece of elaborate furniture.

This claim was reiterated further when I stumbled upon my prospective piano while visiting a small home in Westport, Connecticut. The family had told me that no one was able to play this instrument resulting in it being turned into a piece of glorified furniture that has begun to take up too much space within their home. When inspecting this piano, I noticed it was a Sohmer and was in excellent condition, both structurally and phonetically. Eventually my parents and I decided that this instrument would be an appropriate choice and later decided to purchase it from the family.

A factory inspection slip from the manufacturers.

Unfortunately, the only information I was able to obtain requiring the origins of this piano from the family was that they bought it at an auction a few years ago. Around this same time, I decided to conduct some further research into this newly obtained object. For starters, I found that this instrument was assembled by Sohmer & Co., a piano manufacturing company founded in New York City in 1872. In spite of this, further research divulged that Sohmer & Co. was eventually bought out by Samick Music Corporation, a large piano manufacturer based in Korea. Since Samick bought out Sohmer & Co. in the late 20th century, and since I found some Korean characters on the back of my piano, I can infer that my piano was made in the past 20-30 years.

In an attempt to discover more about the origins of my piano, I attempted to call Samick and ask the company if they knew any more information about my instrument’s history. To my dismay, the phone operator was not able to find my piano’s serial number when the company’s database and told me that it was most likely made in Korea. Since Samick recently shut down the production of Sohmer pianos recently, the company left no record of Sohmer pianos within their internal database. At this point, I felt as if I hit a brick wall in terms research; neither the company nor I had any leads to the origins of my instrument.

Although there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the origins of my Upright Sohmer Piano, I feel as if this research experience has helped me to gain a greater appreciate for my instrument. Having the ability to obtain an object that previously had very little purpose, other than being a piece of furniture, was very empowering; I felt that I was able to give this object purpose again. Consequently, this piano has become one of my favorite objects and as I continue to look to forward to playing it once again, I will be able to appreciate and acknowledge its significance to both myself and to the environment around me.

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2 thoughts on “Course Blog #3: Origins of my Sohmer Upright Piano

  1. Hi Brandon,

    I have been interested you and your relationship with your piano since the first day of class when you showed me the photo of it. I think it is very admirable the route you took to see if you could dig up any deeper history behind your piano. I too, with my object felt that I hit a wall in terms of digging up any more of its past. I have thought about discussing my grandparents baby grand piano in my discussion, because my grandfather has more or less passed it down to me (it’s just a matter of having a mover move it to my house around the corner). Unlike your piano, this one has been passed down through my family for some generations which would make tracing its lineage rather interesting for me. However, I am not home to photograph it and there also is really only one person, my grandfather, left who would know its story. But as you said, this piano has been sitting for many years and used as an elaborate furniture piece which my grandfather’s nativity sits upon year round. I found it interesting that you defined nearly exactly the situation of my family piano through trying to trace the lineage of your own.

    Marisa

  2. It’s too bad they couldn’t help you pinpoint where exactly your piano was made, but going from Korea to auction to a home in Connecticut is really quite a journey! I also think that it’s great that you’re putting use and life back into it again. Like Marissa, I also have a piano at home that goes unplayed, in part because of how badly it needs a tuning. It’s also pretty cool is that you might be the first person to play that piano, which makes you the first major chapter in its history. Do you feel that you are more connected to it knowing a bit about its origin?

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