School district’s Steinway restored by local family

PAT FRIDGEN
Ken Shockey has a special attachment to the reconditioned Steinway grand piano at Greencastle-Antrim High School. He has played it since he was a teenager.

The Steinway Grand Piano, Model B, long a fixure at concerts at Greencastle-Antrim High School, has been given a new life. The Shockey Foundation financed restoration of the 1913 piano because one family that loves music also appreciates fine instruments.

The complete history of the piano is unknown, but Ken Shockey, 63, remembers playing it as a teenager in high school. It had undergone another refurbishment then. The piano was revered by the music department and kept locked up at the back of the stage. Then choral director Richard Besecker would bring it out for performances, Shockey recalled. Later in time students would physically carry it to the pit below the stage, and then take it back to storage.

Shockey had an affinity for the piano and his brother Jim played other instruments. Their parents, Paul and Anna Shockey, encouraged them and actively supported the music programs in the schools. They attended every concert of their sons and then their grandchildren. The Greencastle couple has now retired to Luther Ridge in Chambersburg.

For the past three years Shockey accompanied the vocalists and stage band for the high school spring musicals. He alone best understood the condition of the piece.

"It was in bad shape," he said. "The sound boards were cracked. It was living on borrowed time."

He consulted with his parents about the foundation sponsoring a rehab. "They thought it was a really good idea."

Shockey chose Snyder's Piano Service in Robisonia for its statewide reputation in rebuilding old pianos. It has remanufactured pianos for colleges, churches, museums and private customers for nearly half a century. The firm took possession of the Steinway in the fall and returned it in April.

"Now it's just like brand new," Shockey said. "I've never played anything like it in my life."

Former G-AHS choral director Martha Fuchs worked alongside Shockey during the musicals. "The piano was in need of much repair and it now has a professional-quality sound to it. It is so special that we still have the same piano as always, but with a new and improved look and sound."

The 6'10" grand came back with a new feature. It has a climate control panel which takes water to maintain perfect conditions for the wood and parts. Shockey worked out the details on who monitors the panel throughout the year. The foundation will cover the cost of keeping the piano in tune.

"A newly-strung piano takes a long time to settle," he announced. "I expect many tunings initially."

The piano will continue to be accessible to anyone who needs one for school or community performances in the auditorium. It has been used for middle and high school concerts, the Rescue Hose Company Minstrel Show and the Drama Club.

Shockey was open about his fondness for the majestic keyboard. "I have an emotional attachment to it. I hope to play it for another 45 years."

Fuchs concurred. Her young accompanists treasured playing it at end-of-the-year concerts. "I am confident the music department and community will make good use of it and truly value the instrument. The performances last spring were spectacular."