A large truck arrived at the backstage door of the Payson High School auditorium Thursday morning. It contained a special delivery from members of the Tonto Community Concert Association.
Workers carefully unloaded a $35,000 package containing the sound of music -- a brand new Yamaha 7.5-foot concert grand piano.
After years of waiting, working, dreaming and collecting, members of the TCCA had fulfilled their goal to bring Payson a new piano.
A grand idea
"About three years ago, Bob Ware (former TCCA president) and I were talking outside the bank, and I said, ‘Wouldn't it be nice to get a new piano to replace the old one at the high school,'" said Marilyn Wolfe, TCCA president.
"I think we got serious when the pedals fell off the old one," added her husband Dick, who is a TCCA board member.
Members of the concert association composed a plan to purchase a piano that would serve the entire community. They dubbed the effort "A Grand Idea."
"We raised all the money with donations from the community," Wolfe said. "We had two anonymous donors that gave us $5,000 each, and five $1,000 donations. But the amazing thing was the fact that a lot of the donations were small -- $10, $25 and $50," Wolfe said.
"A lot of those $10 donations came from widows or people on limited incomes," said Charles Jones, past TCCA president and current board member. "It shows that people in our community are interested in the arts -- they really care."
"They care because they know the power of music," Wolfe said. "It's sad that music is often the first thing school districts cut. So this sends a strong message that our community supports the arts. They understand it enhances the cultural experience for everyone -- students and adults alike."
A community piano
An added benefit to the new, higher-quality piano will be its ability to attract performers to Rim Country.
"In the past, we've had performers that TCCA invited to Payson but they requested a particular piano," said Myra Herbster, TCCA board member. "In one case, because of the condition of our old piano, the performer declined our invitation."
Wolfe is also excited to have the piano for local students.
"It's a piano for the enjoyment of the entire community, and we're happy we could make it happen," Wolfe said. "I'm really proud of the school. They built us a piano case. It's a permanent fixture that can be locked and one that will protect the piano."
The black wooden box was made with materials purchased by TCCA, but the size of the box tells a story of bigger dreams.
"That's because it was built to hold up to a 9-foot piano," Wolfe said. "With this new piano we have the option within the next few years to trade it in on a 9-foot piano and just pay the difference."
The difference in price gives TCCA members a future challenge to raise an additional $20,000.
TCCA will retain ownership of the new piano, which is essentially on loan to the community. But after making such a significant investment, board members have drafted some guidelines to help maintain and protect the new Yamaha.
"Nonprofit organizations in town will not be charged a fee to use the piano, but they will be responsible for having it tuned," Wolfe said. "And, of course, the school will never be charged."
Other guidelines include keeping the piano clean and secured.
The old piano, which was purchased used in 1979, will remain at the high school for everyday student practice and music classes.
The new piano will make its debut at 7 p.m. Friday, October 14 at the next TCCA concert, featuring singer Susan Egan.
"We are really excited and want to invite everyone to come out for the ribbon-cutting and celebrate this new community piano," Marilyn Wolfe said.
Season tickets are available for $60 by calling (928) 478-4363 or (928) 474-6115. Individual concert tickets are available at the door for $20 while they last. Admission is free for students when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
See Video: TCCA President Marilyn Wolfe plays "Ashokan Farewell" on new concert grand piano