In 1872 Albert Schoenhut, an immigrant recently settled in Philadelphia, started to shape an idea he had had for long time, with a strong outlook toward the future.
Albert was German, with both his grandfathers being toy-manufacturers. In Philadelphia he found a job at the well-know Wanamaker & Son, spending several hours in the toy department, understanding that the musical aspect of toys had to be developed… with toy piano’s for children already on the market, but required technical improvements. Albert’s projects were aimed to improve these pianos and led to the opening, in 1872, of the firm that bears his name. Five of Albert’s six sons joined the firm as directors. Nowadays, Schoenhut is still a leading brand in the market.
Today the toy piano is not exclusively used by children: its use has been exploited by contemporary composers (John Cage, George Crumb, Yann Tiersen, Mauricio Kagel, etc.), by pop-rock songwriters and groups (Vinicio Capossela, Radiohead, The Cure, Evanescence, Tori Amos, etc.), by concert musicians (Margaret Leng Tan, Bernd Wiesemann, Isabel Ettenauer, etc.), in the cinema (Il favoloso mondo di Amelie) and furthermore… do you remember Schroeder acting as a virtuoso, estolling Beethoven on his toy piano?
Pianist Giacomo di Tollo wants to introduce the use of the toy piano at all possible levels…, we need to let professional musicians grow in a society that is able to understand them. And how better than supporting a touchable image of music, created by child’s play?
Here are our projects. Please support them 🙂
- Busking for L’Aquila
Giacomo di Tollo is from Abruzzo, and as everyone knows that this region was been destroyed by a terrific earthquake, affecting the main administrative centre (L’Aquila) and its province. The pianist has adopted, ever since, the project of being a busker in the cities he would have visited, and to donate the money earned to the destroyed areas… it takes many drops to fill a lake… (if not the sea!)
2) Toy pianos for children
The first recipient of toy pianos are children…poor things, they feel more at ease playing a small piano, rather than a grand, as the piano stool is taller than them 🙂
The idea is to bring the toy piano amongst children at school, to get them acquainted with the instrument… each school should have a toy piano!
Let’s help the toy piano to enter the classical circuit: At festivals, and in theatres! We offer concerts for toy piano solo or hybrids, concerts for big-daddy piano and toy-child piano. Repertoire can be agreed upon according to the various circumstances.
Examples of repertoire:
Ludovic Selmi Toy Toy
John Cage Suite for Toy Piano
Rob Smith Schroeder’s Revenge
Lydia Martin Wonky Inside!
Giacomo di Tollo Musica per pianoforte giocattolo
Tom Johnson Kleine Choräle für kleines Klavier
Stephen Montague Mirabella (a Tarantella)
Toby Twining Nightmare Rag
George Crumb Ancient Voices of Children
4) Performer in residence
We want composers to be aware of the potential embedded in toy piano writing, and we would like them to develop an autonomous toy-piano literature. To this goal, Giacomo di Tollo is available to work as Performer in Residence during composition workshops and lectures. Several aspects of toy-piano writing have to be investigated: expressive writing, articulations, dynamics, textures, pauses. Above all, differences between the grand and toy piano are the key aspect that could represent the most interesting issues.
Support our projects!
Giacomo di Tollo
Contrada Torre Pizzis I-66026 Ortona (Chieti) ITALY