Thirty Years of Piano Sales and Service
Fine Lifestyles Magazine - July, 2010
Thirty years of piano sales and service
BY JACKIE KRIPKI
Thirty years ago, the piano business in Saskatchewan looked a lot different. So did Roger Jolly, founder and co-owner of Yamaha Piano Centre. “Well,” he jokes, “I was a little younger, a little more handsome, and still had dark hair.”
While his sense of humour is intact, Jolly admits that the early years were not fun and games. He and wife Marie did every job themselves, including tuning and delivering each instrument. “That's the way it was, you know. In small business, with a young family to support, you work incredibly long hours to make ends meet.”
Three decades later, the result of that hard work is that Roger and Marie own and operate two thriving Yamaha Piano Centres, in Regina and Saskatoon, and own more than 80 percent of the market share in the province. “When we first opened in 1980 there were nine piano and organ stores in Saskatoon. Today, we have only one competitor in Saskatoon and one in Regina.”
Jolly recognizes that much of their success is due to selling top-quality product lines. The stores carry the world's finest manufacturers, including Bechstein, Knabe, Yamaha, Kohler & Campbell and the Pramberger Signature Series, as well as quality used pianos and keyboards.
He gives even more credit to Yamaha Piano Centre's above-the-line personal service, which hasn't changed much in 30 years. In fact, they still handwrite every bill of sale. “Are we computerized? You bet your bottom dollar we are. When the customer leaves, we enter it into the computer, but when dealing with the person, we give personalized attention.”
First-time customers generally understand very little about the mechanics of the piano, and sometimes arrive with misinformation, usually drawn from the Internet. “It is incumbent on us to explain the pluses, minuses and cost benefits in a logical manner that makes sense to the consumer. That's our driving philosophy: to give clients information so they can make an intelligent decision for themselves.”
Jolly disregards slick sales courses in favour of asking the right questions. He compares the role of the Yamaha Piano Centre salesperson to that of an interviewer. “You can't fulfill the client's need until you've got the complete picture.
|"We only deliver what we would accept in our own homes."|
The hot trend
A growing segment of piano shoppers are upper-income-level clients who are purchasing a grand piano mainly for the aesthetic. “They love the look of it,” enthuses Jolly, “and they love the sound.” Right at the top of these clients' wish lists is the Yamaha Disklavier™, an acoustic grand piano that is also a player piano. At the press of a button, the Disklavier™ is able to recreate recorded music, complete with the movement of the keys and foot pedals. Think of an old saloon piano in a western film, keys playing jauntily as though pressed by invisible fingers; the Yamaha Disklavier™ is the same concept, but light-years ahead.
“The piano disc has been around for years,” explains Jolly, “but it was a very expensive, crude tool in comparison to the Disklaver™. Electronic developments have made the technology more affordable and mechanics have made it more reliable.”
Jolly inserts a special CD, presses a button, and the sound of a Garth Brooks tune fills the air, complete with vocals and accompanying instruments. Small mechanical plungers play back the piece with remarkable accuracy. Any motion the pianist made with his or her feet or fingers—loud or soft, fast or slow—the Disklavier™ will duplicate. So, you hear exactly what the artist played, and see exactly how he or she touched the keys. “Many of the artists have recorded for these piano companies because they're recognizing that this is the way of the future,” he says.
The Disklavier™ makes playing fun and interactive, even for beginners, who are able to record and edit their own music by adding the sounds of synthesized instruments, live vocals and even live instruments. When plugged into the Internet, the piano opens up a new world of music sharing. “With upstreaming,” explains Jolly. “A music student could take an exam on this Disklavier™, and the professor could mark the exam at Dalhousie University.”
Or, if you prefer, simply sit and pretend you're playing along with Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel or the Beatles. There are thousands of easy-to-download songs, including classical music and pop hits by nearly every artist imaginable.
The Yamaha Disklavier™ is a true luxury item. There is even an Elton John Signature Series Disklavier™ in the same crimson shade as the one played in the artist’s Red Piano show at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. It's signed by the artist, and Yamaha guarantees that no more than 50 will ever be produced and sold. It is the ultimate collectible for fans of the Rocket Man.
Staying in tune
Pianos are complicated instruments, with complex mechanical components. The more one is played, the sooner it will requireattendance. Regular maintenance is the key to keeping a piano operating at its fullest. Tuning should ideally be done twice a year following major temperature changes, such as in spring and fall, when the furnace goes in and out of use.
Whether it is an heirloom piece or a high-end Disklavier™ grand, the piano should always be serviced by a certified piano technician. Yamaha Piano Centres offer this service across the province.
Regina technician Derek Gibson has been extensively trained by Roger Jolly in concert level tuning, voicing and regulating. He is the technician for the Regina Symphony Orchestra, and works on pianos for the Conexus Arts Centre, Mackenzie Art Gallery and the Regina Jazz Society, as well as major events, such as the Regina Music Festival and the Royal Conservatory of Music Examinations. He also services the pianos of many top-level teachers and performers.
30th Anniversary sale!
It was May, 1980, when Roger and Marie Jolly opened the first Yamaha Piano Centre in Saskatchewan. Thirty years later, the Jollys can hardly be accused of slowing down. Roger has, among many other prestigious accomplishments, been named technical design consultant for the world's largest piano manufacturer, Samick Music Corporation. An internationally recognized piano technician and clinician, he travels the world, teaching and lecturing.
Marie is an accomplished vocalist, musical director, piano performer and teacher. She travels with Roger when she can, gives piano lessons to pupils ages two to 90-plus, and offers first-rate attention to each client who walks in the door.
Yamaha Piano Centre’s 30th anniversary is being celebrated province-wide with a big sale, with the lowest prices of the year on grands, uprights and keyboards. To experience the top-rate service espoused by Roger Jolly, drop in for a visit. He promises Yamaha Piano Centre will not disappoint. “The folks at this business are real people with real solutions working for real people with real needs.”