I will not be the only one with tears running down my face after some of you read this story.
Katrina’s Piano Fund has delivered hundreds of replacement instruments — including more than 40 pianos — to regional New Orleans musicians who lost everything in the huricane.
Steve Burtchaell, a professional musician, mourned his family’s loss of a Steinway baby grand piano. He, like everybody else, had to put his instrument at the bottom of a mile-long list of priorities and realized it was probably never going to be replaced.
But after hearing of the Fund, Steve became the first applicant to request a piano. On April 21, two tractor trailers pulled up to the meeting hall of Corpus Christi Catholic Church on St. Bernard Avenue and Steve was given first choice of the 41 pianos delivered. “We had just one baby grand, donated by Jennifer Wydra of South Orange, NJ,” recalls one of the founders of the Fund. . .
Each piano was accompanied by a letter from the donor, explaining the history of the piano, what owning and playing it had meant to them, and their wishes to help New Orleans musicians. (from Our Town, Katrina Help Center)
“Steve had narrowed the field to two pianos, but after reading the “adoption letter” written by Jennifer, he realized that her instrument was destined for him. Her letter, and Steve’s note to the Fund following delivery, are posted in full on the Piano Fund’s Web site, with the date 5/18. Here are the highlights:
Dear Fellow Keyboard Player,
It is my sincere hope that you spend many fruitful hours playing this 1924 McPhale piano. She’s been in my family for the last 25 years and I spent many, many hours with her, playing, composing, partying… I’ve pounded the heck out of her at times and she never disappoints… She’s been a gracious and hospitable presence and is truly a beautiful addition to any place she resides…
I hope she makes you happy and that you can bring her a new life. While I am sad to part with her, there was no doubt in my mind that she should now belong to you. I received her from an elderly lady living in Philadelphia and moved her to Cherry Hill, NJ, which is where I grew up…
Please enjoy her and treat her well…
Steve’s reply to the Fund:
Just wanted to extend my heartfelt thanks to you and all the people in your group that made the realization of the baby grand piano a reality to my family. Not in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine getting a phone call to choose a piano. In fact I had given up the idea of ever having another baby grand with our many other priorities. It means so much to us, it is hard for me to describe. Sitting at a piano has been a great joy all my life.
After speaking to Jennifer, the donor of the baby grand, I realize how much a sacrifice on your behalf and the many others that helped you to see the final results of the donated pianos. She told her story and yours in transporting the pianos across the country… I will always be appreciative of your work at the Piano Fund.
(The Fund’s founders, from left to right: Klondike Koehler, Juan LaBostrie, Tom Bensen, Michael Paz.)
Please donate an instrument if you can, or make a tax-deductible donation through Paypal or the post office. Here’s the link to show you how.