QUEENS, N.Y. – They are considered to be on the short list of the world’s finest pianos. But did you know Steinway & Sons crafts the legendary musical instruments in Astoria?
The company was founded in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway in a Manhattan loft on Varick Street. Over the next 30 years, Henry and his sons developed the modern piano.
“Really what they did was create a new instrument. They took it to the next level,” said Anthony Gilroy, Senior Director of Marketing at Steinway & Sons.
As word got out about the Steinway’s work, demand grew and, in the 1870s, they expanded to factory spaces in Astoria. Currently, 250 employees produce around 1,200 to 1,300 pianos there each year. And crafting a Steinway is never a rush job — each one takes about 11 months to make.
“We’re starting about five pianos a day, maybe six. We’re completing about five pianos a day, and in between, our pianos are at all different stages of completion in that 11 month process,” Gilroy explained.
Among those who swear by Steinway are the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel; Harry Connick Jr.; Diana Krall; and Regina Spektor.
NY1 got a chance to see the process of creating these masterpieces. They saw long pieces of hard rock maple covered with glue to become laminates, put in a press to be bent into the piano’s rim, and left in a super hot and humid room for two months for conditioning. The rim then goes to the case department, where parts are added for structural integrity. In the belly department, musical parts are installed and more than 230 strings. In the grand finishing department, items like the keyboard and the action (the mechanism that allows a pianist to hit a key, leading to a hammer striking the strings) are installed. It’s all about precision when making a Steinway.
“There’s going to be a lot of fine tuning adjustments made to every key in that piano, You need the keys to not touch each other. You need them to fit in that piano, and you need them to hit the strings the right way,” Gilroy said.
Among those helping make it all happen is Prena Ljucovic, who has been at Steinway for 46 years.
“I don’t feel like I’m working. I feel like I’m having fun. And you are making a pretty good product, huh? Very nice, I am proud of what we do,” Ljucovic said.