By Cindy Chin, CLC Advisors, LLC CEO
My thoughts on the proposed acquisition of Steinway & Sons by Kohberg & Co. (Note: the company has a brief period in which to gauge interest from other buyers.) Initially, I was saddened and concerned that a cherished institution with such a significant and rich musical history has been acquired by another private financial entity with little transparency as to the future of the beloved piano purveyor. Then upon more reflection and thought, I was relieved that the number to acquire Steinway is in the upwards of $438MM. That’s right, folks. FOUR HUNDRED THIRTY-EIGHT MILLION U.S. DOLLARS. Far more than what classical music or instrument manufacturers have been given clout in the past. Furthermore, it places a firm, significant and respectable value on a weak market/ecosystem for music and the arts.
While some of my friends and colleagues in the music world may think that Steinway is selling out, I’d like to take the time to reflect on the number of inferior Steinway pianos that exist out there, many of which are in the revered Valhalla-like walls of Juilliard in the practice rooms. Yes, that’s right. The MAJORITY of the Steinway pianos are old, trashed, and acoustically on their last breaths since as a pianist it is difficult to transport your instrument like a string or woodwind player, etc. Unless, of course, you’re Liberace or Lang Lang.
That said, I have had the privilege to play pianos of unique outstanding and exceptional caliber only thrice in my life: 1. a Bösendorfer (at Westminster Choir College, I believe) during my competition years in high school, 2. The concert grand Steinway gently hidden inside the recital hall of the Chamber Music Society (the piano is the equivalent of a Ferarri – I kid you not), and 3. a certain well-known violinist’s Steinway. The latter two only happened in the past 3 years. The Bösendorfer had far more value as I was at the top of my own technical abilities as a pianist.
In summary, I wish Kohlberg & Co. the best of luck in revitalizing Steinway & Sons in the hopes that they infusion of cash will positively impact the production of stellar, world-class instruments that wonder and delight musicians of all technical skill from the virtuoso to the beginner. Better pianos means they’ll be played, kept, and therefore less disposal in the trash and environment.
This is the new age for music and the performing arts. I am delighted that someone else thought so too.