A happy new beginning for The Basement’s 1930s piano

Piano Technician Bill Ryder at work in the Basement. KLH | Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Next time you’re enjoying good company, a quality cocktail and beautiful jazz at The Basement (formerly Abruzzi) in Jacoby’s Storehouse, give particular attention to the piano there, because it dates back to the 1930s.

The vintage Baldwin Monarch baby grand was donated by Ruth and George Epperson. Jacoby's Storehouse co-owner/manager Bill Chino said George called him offering a baby grand piano, which Chino said he probably couldn't afford. Then George made him an offer he couldn't refuse – to donate it for free.

After it acclimated to its new home, the venerable keyboard was given an overhaul by piano technician Bill Ryder. He cleaned the soundboard, then set about leveling the strings, mating them with the hammers and doing a thorough tune-up. 

The successful piano re-homing was expedited by musician Julie Fulkerson. Her “piano adoption service” was inspired in part by a March 9 Instagram posting by musician Paul DeMark. 

Paul DeMark's inspiring Instagram post.

 “I found a piano last year for the airport for anyone to play,” Fulkerson said. “Then a few months ago, Paul DeMark posted this photo and I about lost my mind. I didn’t see the post in time to save this piano (I hope someone did). I was outraged that the house was bulldozed, but astounded that the piano was left in the rain.”

Alas, that piano wasn’t saved by Fulkerson, as she didn’t see the posting in time. Its fate is unknown, but she soldiers on with her efforts.

Piano Technician Bill Ryder lovingly tunes the old baby. KLH | Union

“This is not the first available piano,” she said. “I have heard of others. They actually end up in the landfill if homes are not found for them. So, that led to helping find one for The Basement. Serendipitously, a member of the Eureka Symphony heard I was looking for a piano for live music in The Basement. One thing led to another and a small grand piano was adopted by Bill [Chino]. A piano technician helped bring it back to full performance capacity.”

It turns out there's a national surfeit of unwanted pianos, but the local rescue campaign is on something of a piano roll, with a second one since adopted. 

“Since then I matched up Dennis Rael and a student from Eureka for another piano,” Fulkerson said. “Others are in the wings.”

“I have this belief that music, art, theatre... will keep our heads from exploding,” Fulkerson said.



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