Piano technology is not something we hear about often. In fact, many
people are aware of the “old standards”, Baldwin, Yamaha and Steinway,
but don’t know that new brands are being developed. That’s where Shadd
Pianos come in. Recently, jazz drummer Warren Shadd became the first
African American piano manufacturer.
According to an article on NPR’s website, music runs deep in the Shadd family: his father was a piano technician, his grandparents were musicians and his aunt is the late, famed vocalist Shirley Horn.
Today, you can find Shadd pianos in churches and concert halls all over the United States. The upscale Setai Fifth Avenue hotel in NYC even jumped on the Shadd bandwagon, snagging one of the Shadd family’s creations.
In an excerpt from the piece, Shadd says, “We had pianos everywhere in my house, from the garage to the basement, sometimes even one of the upright pianos sitting in the kitchen, [Laughs.] And musicians would come over to our house after the gig and play all night: Dude Brown, Bernard Sweetney, Steve Novosel, Roberta Flack …
My father would have me do little repairs on the piano. When he went on these piano [repair] jobs, he would take me with him to see what the whole thing was about … and I would never want to go. I just wanted to stay home and play the drums; just wanted to be Warren Shadd the drummer. Except when he said he was going to the Howard Theatre — I was in the car before he got there! I wanted to see all these cats rehearse, see the show … I met Grady Tate when I was about 6 years old, playing with Jimmy Smith, then went full circle and played with Jimmy Smith myself.
As I progressed and learned more about piano technology, I never aspired to; I just knew how to do it. I would say, ‘Piano is what I know, drums is who I am.’ As I went out there and toured with different acts, did a bunch of Broadway shows and got a little tired of the road, I learned how to tune, rebuild and restore pianos. I would take these pianos down to the nuts and bolts and build them back up just for fun, just for a hobby. I would take whole grand or upright pianos apart, build them back up with everything refinished — new strings, new soundboard, new keys, new ivories — for fun. And then my father would sell the piano. [Laughs.] I was about 12, 13 when I started doing this.
Read more at NPR.