Buying a piano can be an intimidating experience. There are so many variables to consider, not the least of which is the expense involved. But does buying a piano always have to be a sizable investment? Not according to Adam Markowitz, proprietor of the piano showroom “AdamsPiano.com” that opened just weeks ago at 215 Main Street in New Paltz. “We have pianos in all price ranges, starting at a couple of hundred dollars plus delivery, so don’t be put off by the cost,” he says. “A piano doesn’t have to cost very much. And it can last for many, many years, so the cost of ownership can be very low.”
AdamsPiano.com buys and sells new and used pianos and provides all aspects of piano service and rebuilding along with piano rentals, moving and storage. They have a humidity controlled storage facility, two trucks and do moves all over the East Coast. There are currently 60 pianos on display between the New Paltz showroom and the workshop where the overflow goes, with about 70 percent of the inventory used pianos. As for the new models, Markowitz features Kawai pianos.
There is no typical customer. “We have a lot of young families with kids who are learning, many local musicians and others coming up from New York City because we have some very nice instruments and they’re reasonably priced compared to the city,” Markowitz says. Piano rentals are generally to local resorts and hotels and people who are here temporarily or have summer homes.
The showroom in New Paltz is open by appointment only. And while the location is a new one, the business has been around for more than 27 years. Founded as “Adam’s Piano” in 1987, Markowitz first opened in Slate Hill, NY. From there he moved into Middletown, then to Kingston followed by Germantown and finally Highland, where his showroom was located in Heritage Square Plaza from 2009 until last month. The move to New Paltz was due to a need for more space. But beyond that, Markowitz lives in New Paltz and says, “I liked the idea of being right in town. When this space became available, it seemed like a good fit.”
Markowitz is himself a jazz pianist. Growing up in Manhattan, he began studying piano at age five. His mother is a concert pianist, but he actually learned to play from a good friend of hers. Markowitz did occasional gigs in New York City and elsewhere, including a 2010 performance at House of Blues in New Orleans, but today plays mainly in his home accompanied by musicians who just happen to live in his New Paltz neighborhood.
“I’m very fortunate to play with a wonderful bass player, Lew Scott, who lives five minutes from me,” Markowitz says, “and sometimes with a fine tenor sax player, Charles Frommer, who lives five minutes on the other side of me. And my neighbor is Rebecca Coupe Franks, the trumpet player. New Paltz is great that way; full of wonderful musicians.”
He went to school in Boston in 1986 to become a piano technician. After moving back to New York, he tuned pianos for a number of concert halls and private clients in the New York City area, including André Previn, Roberta Flack, Marvin Hamlisch and Garrick Ohlsson. These days, he says, he can’t keep up with all the tuning he’s asked to do, so he only tunes pianos for the celebrity clients he’s known for years and for people who live “no more than three minutes away.” He does have several staff technicians available for tuning assignments.
Markowitz says he wishes he could rent out a second space just for performances, as he did in 2008. With his showroom located in Kingston at the time, he rented a second space in Olive, NY, christened it “Adam’space,” and held a year-long jazz series at his own expense, with performances by Bill Mays, Frank Kimbrough, John Abercrombie, Hal Galper, Armen Donelian, Rebecca Martin and others. “There was a need for that at the time,” he adds, “and I think there still is. We don’t have enough performance spaces in this area. There are a lot of wonderful musicians and relatively few venues.”
Markowitz also donates pianos to individuals or places of worship in need. “If someone is out there who is genuinely in need of a piano, we’ll find you something. It may not be much, but we’ll find something,” he says. Back in 2007 and 2008, he made two separate trips to New Orleans to donate pianos to those who’d lost theirs in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Inspired after hearing a song called “All These People” by New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr., Markowitz says he “just felt that we should all do our part, and the only thing I could think of to do was to bring pianos to churches that had been flooded out, and schools, jazz clubs and individuals.”
He found recipients by calling radio stations in New Orleans. “They did public service announcements saying, ‘Call Adam if you’ve lost your piano in the hurricane.’ I was flooded with requests.” Markowitz loaded up his truck with nine pianos the first year — the maximum number that fit into his truck at the time — and arranged with the recipients to have someone (strong) available at each location to help bring the piano inside. The following year he returned with seven more pianos. A documentary film about the donations was made the first year: “9 Pianos” premiered at the 2011 Woodstock Film Festival and can be viewed currently on YouTube.
“I met some wonderful people down there,” Markowitz says about the experience. “They were fine people, all, who were very gracious. Some people even said, ‘Give it to someone who needs it more.'”
More information is available by calling (845) 978-2235 or at www.adamspiano.com.