BWW Interview: Meet Sarah Binder Mehta-President of PIANOPIANO Based in NYC
BroadwayWorld recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Binder Mehta, the President of the leading piano rental company in New York City, PianoPiano. We were pleased to learn about the company's relationship to the performing arts community, and their philanthropic work.
After graduating from Cornell in 2001, Sarah made her way to the University of Michigan Law School where she focused her studies on products liability defense. After a successful career in law, Sarah decided to join forces with her father, Jerry Binder, in 2014 to continue the family business and provide a stress-free and affordable piano rental process to consumers around the country.
In 1975, Jerry launched Piano Rental New York in Manhattan. This business was focused on renting new and like-new high quality pianos sourced from around the world. In 1991, Jerry's wife, Judy, suggested renaming the company to PianoPiano, and it quickly became known for its high-end pianos, attentive customer service, and desire to encourage people of all ages to learn to play the piano. Sarah, as the third generation piano expert, is taking the company into the 21st century through new technology and procedures to ensure the highest quality of pianos and customer service. Through her day-to-day role of strategizing and coordinating with craftsmen and designers, PianoPiano is able to provide top-of-the-line pianos, tuning support, and the option to rent high-quality pianos for a few days, 10 years, or beyond.
PianoPiano has placed pianos everywhere- from Carnegie Hall to The Top of the Rock, hundreds of Broadway shows and music festivals including the recent Make Music New York. The Binder family also has their own line of luxury pianos Avery Bond, which put PianoPiano on an international scale. Since 1975, the business has grown tremendously with Sarah leading the third generation of the number one piano rental source in New York City, PianoPiano.
What do you think is so distinctive about PianoPiano?
PianoPiano is really the only business in New York City that will rent you a piano for a day, a week, a month, a year, or forever. We never ask our customers to buy their piano but they can buy at any time and use their first 12 months of rental fees towards purchase. If you need a piano for a day for a production, we can do that. And if you need a piano for 2 years because you're in town starring in a show, we can do that too. It's the ultimate in flexibility and affordability.
What are some of the day-to-day challenges of your business?
Like any small business, everyone here is stretched for time. We're fortunate that we're always busy with calls, emails and visits from customers. Our employees are all professional opera singers, jazz pianists, cabaret singers and more, so we try to always take the time to support each other's productions. We're all in the music business, but sometimes finding time to actually enjoy music can be tough!
Is there any job that is too big or too small for PianoPiano?
Not at all! We've put pianos anywhere you can think of - from Broadway stages, to church basements, to hotel rooms for just a few hours and we have over 1,000 pianos in homes, restaurants, schools, rehearsal studios and theaters all over the New York area. We've hoisted pianos through windows and carried them up and down 5 flights of stairs. We also do all kinds of outdoor rentals from rooftops to Central Park to the Coney Island boardwalk.
What big events/productions have you worked with that standout for you?
One production we worked with that really stood out to me was Fun Home. We were able to provide pianos for them during their rehearsals before they began their run at the Public and then again before they went to Broadway. We had no idea it would be such a big hit and it was fun to be a part of that.
We also provide all the pianos for Make Music New York which is this incredible outdoor festival that always occurs on June 21 and hosts over 1,000 outdoor concerts all over the city (not all with pianos!) - we usually provide pianos for 4 to 5 locations in Manhattan and it's a lot of fun to watch our pianos being played on the streets of New York.
One of my personal favorites is having provided the pianos for use in the Disney Theatrical Productions offices - as a huge fan of all things Disney I get a real kick out of this one.
Some of our most fun events have been ones we didn't know about until after the fact. An event planner or coordinator will call us - and then we find out later that Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder was playing our piano. That's what I love about this business, I'm always surprised by where our pianos end up. We've even had more than a few Broadway stars (including some Tony winners) rent from us while they were performing in New York and we didn't even know it until the rental ended.
Tell us about some of the altruistic things that PianoPiano has accomplished.
PianoPiano has a long history of philanthropy, having been one of the founders of the Beethoven Festival in Long Island and having provided all the pianos for the Imperial Bosendorfer Live on WQXR, which brought outstanding young pianists from all over the country to perform live on the radio. More recently, as mentioned above, PianoPiano supplies all the pianos for Make Music New York and we've been really proud to partner with them and watch the festival grow over the years. We also choose one or two not for profit galas to provide pianos for each year - this year we provided a digital piano for Achilles International's gala. If you're not familiar with their cause, they provide running partners to physically challenged runners so that they can complete marathons and other races. In the past, we've provided pianos to the Museum of Math (math and music are very much related!) and Bottom Line New York, a fantastic charity that helps first generation students get into and graduate from college. We actually support Bottom Line on an ongoing basis and focus on helping first generation students who are studying music all over New York State. And we also work with New York Theater Workshop, providing a piano for their rehearsal space and any pianos they need for productions.
We'd love to know little more about "Avery Bond," your luxury piano brand.
As I'm sure your readers are aware, there are many apartment buildings in New York with tiny elevators and tight stair wells. Because of that, many musicians require a console piano (an upright piano without front legs) because it is the only model which can fit up those stairs and into their apartments. Most manufacturers have stopped making this model and we saw a need in New York for a good quality console piano suitable for professionals and beginners alike. We traveled to China and visited several piano factories before deciding on one to make our Avery Bond piano. We designed the action and sound to our specifications based on what our customers were telling us they wanted. We also made sure that a silent system could be installed on this piano, which allows the pianist to flip a switch and play silently with headphones so as not to disturb neighbors, roommates or family members. So far we've had a huge success with them and everyone from Juilliard students to professional Jazz musicians to children just starting lessons seem to love them. Without the silent system, you can rent an Avery Bond piano for $64 per month, with the silent system installed the cost is still only $125 per month. Because of the great quality and low cost, the Avery Bond has quickly become our most popular piano.
Can you share any plans for the future?
Our plan is to just keep growing. We've expanded our rental area to Philadelphia and up to Hartford and we're having a lot of success in those markets. I think as the idea of the sharing economy grows, more and more people are turning to long term rental of goods as an alternate to purchase. We fit right into that mindset. You can have a piano when you need one, and not when you don't - and you don't have to commit to purchasing an expensive item that you then need to move from home to home. Whether you need a piano for a few hours, a few months or a few years, we can help you out.
Is there anything else you'd want our readers to know?
You don't need to spend a lot of money to have a high quality, great sounding musical instrument in your home. We have piano rentals starting from $38 per month. You can rent right online or over the phone and, of course, we always love when people stop by to visit us.
PianoPiano is located at 244 West 54th (5th Floor), New York, NY 10019. Call them at 212.586.9057 and visit their web site at https://pianopiano.com/.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of PianoPiano