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The West Music Blog
The West Music Blog presents articles, press releases and other information of interest to our local and worldwide customers.

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Des Moines June 2017 Teacher Feature: Barbara Wenger
By West Music Company
6/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Barbara Wenger grew up on a dairy farm in Northeast Iowa. Music was a huge part of her upbringing. She played piano for church during high school. She also played the baritone in band and was in the girls’ chorus, mixed chorus, and show choir. After marrying in 1983, Barbara and her husband moved 12 times throughout the U.S. and Canada with her husband’s career in the U.S. Navy.

Barbara Wenger has been teaching piano since 1997, and has been a Licensed Kindermusik Educator, church organist, and children's choir director. She has also held positions as an administrative assistant, insurance biller, and worked in sales. While in Virginia, Barbara operated her own Kindermusik Studio and taught piano. She also substituted as a pianist and organist for local churches, as well as a local children’s choir director. During her stay in Canada, Barbara established her own classes in a retirement home and daycare settings. Moving to Tennessee, Barbara established a piano program for students looking for private lessons. She taught students in grades kindergarten through middle school.

Barbara is comfortable working with various aged students and encourages them to perform in the yearly recitals. Barbara has a passion for introducing music into the lives of children, helping them develop an appreciation for the arts. She also enjoys reading, walking, watching her sons play sports (lacrosse, baseball, and football), volunteering at school, and most recently spending time with her five grandchildren. 

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Tags: Barbara Wenger, des moines, urbandale, lesson, piano, gallery
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70th Birthday Surprise for Mom
By West Music Company
5/3/2017 4:25:00 PM  

Customer Becky Steenhoek shares his story of planning the perfect surprise birthday gift for his mother, a life-long piano player. Dennis and his family lead his mom on a scavenger hunt that ended at her very own grand piano at West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery. 


birthday grand pianoBy: Becky Steenhoek

For our mother's 70th birthday celebration, the planning started months in advance, as we knew we wanted to do something extra special to celebrate her big day. Our mother has always been the one to go above and beyond to do things for others, so for once, we wanted to surprise her and make her feel special.
Music has always been her passion. Playing the piano and organ, singing, directing church choirs, composing music and creating beautiful Easter and Christmas cantatas, music has been a huge part of her life, and something that continues to bring her great joy. But the one thing she had always (secretly) wanted was her very own grand piano, which became the inspiration for her 70th birthday surprise.

birthday grand piano
Dad spent 6 months planning for Mom’s big day. After doing some research on his own, Dad revealed to us kids that he wanted to get Mom a grand piano for her birthday. Over the next five months, Dad enlisted the help of Store Manager Jeff Musel at West Music, who not only taught Dad a lot about pianos, but also was an integral part in helping us create a magical day for Mom. While Dad talked pianos with Jeff, my brother (Brian), sisters (Julie and Amy), and I (Becky) plotted and planned the surprise.

After coordinating airfare and travel plans for siblings who lived out of state, we created a birthday scavenger hunt that began in our hometown of Pella, and ended in Urbandale at West Music, where Mom would be welcomed by Jeff and a showroom filled with grand pianos. At each "stop" during the scavenger hunt, she was greeted by one of us and given a clue to her next destination, all of which had some sort of "grand piano" related innuendo. Throughout the day, the scavenger hunt led Mom to the Marriott Hotel on Grand Avenue in downtown Des Moines to the Dueling Piano Bar in West Des Moines, to the White House Black Market store at Jordan Creek Mall, and of course to the final destination, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery, where there were seven grand pianos with balloons tied to each of them, one of which our mom would get to pick out and bring home.

Needless to say, the entire weekend was full of fun and surprises, and it's something our family will never forget. It was a very special day, and a big part of that is because of the people at West Music, who were so helpful and accommodating throughout the entire process. From Jeff decorating the pianos with balloons to Tanner playing "Happy Birthday" when our mom walked through the door, they really were the cherry on top of a perfect day. Thank you Jeff, Tanner and West Music for being a part of making a dream come true for our mom. I only wish you could see the way she smiles every time she sits down to play at her very own Yamaha Grand piano!


Thank you Becky for letting us be part of this incredible day! Follow us on Facebook for more stories and suppries like these: facebook.com/westmusic


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Des Moines April 2017 Musician of the Month: Kimball Mendenhall
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Kimball Mendenhall has been a piano student of Dr. Asia Grant for 6 months. He is a 2nd grader in the Waukee Community School District. Kimball loves using his hands to make music and learn new pieces. He is smart, fast, and loves to play sports. Kimball’s favorite sports are soccer, basketball, and football.

Kimball participates in Boy Scouts, as well as playing soccer and basketball. Dr. Grant believes Kimball deserves recognition because “Kimball is very hard working, responsible, always comes to lessons prepared, is a fast learner, and he loves music.”

Congratulations, Kimball!

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Piano Types for The Home
By West Music Company
4/6/2017 1:34:00 PM  

Whether you are starting to think about taking piano lessons, have been playing for a few years, or are an expert pianist, having the proper piano that suits your needs is vital. With all of the options that are available, it can be challenging to find the right instrument for your level and your budget. Let us help guide you in finding a piano that fits your needs.


Vertical Pianos

vertical piano

A very common type of piano for the home or studio is the vertical piano. They are called vertical pianos, because of their vertical strings, and are particularly known for their height, which ranges from three to five feet. Due to their cost effectiveness and space efficiency (they typically are no wider than 5’), verticals are a popular choice for homes, churches, schools and music studios.

Common Types of Vertical Pianos Are:

  • Spinet – 36” to 40” in height
  • Console – 40” to 43” in height
  • Studio – 44” to 48” in height
  • Upright – 45” and above

The larger piano, the larger soundboard, and it’s the soundboard that create tone quality. Therefore, Console and Studio pianos are the most common types of pianos found in homes. They are extremely durable so they can be a good choice around children.

Rarely manufactured today,  upright pianos are the tallest of the vertical pianos, with a typical height ranging from four to five feet tall. This piano was very popular at the turn of the century and is what you usually see in older homes and long lineages of families.

 

Grand Pianos

grand piano

Horizontal pianos also referred to as grand pianos. They got their name because of their large size and the fact that their strings are placed horizontally. Grand pianos range in size from four feet long all the way up to nine feet long and produce a very fine tone. Many professional pianists or performers enjoy them for their responsive key action and their spectacular sound.

There Are Six Kinds of Grand Pianos:

  • Petite Grand – under 5’ in length
  • Baby Grand – 5’ to 5’5” in length
  • Medium Grand – 5’ 6” to 5’ 9” in length
  • Parlor / Living Grand – 5’ 10” to 6’ 9” in length
  • Semi-Concert / Ballroom Grand – 6’ 10” to 7’ 10” in length
  • Concert Grand - 8’ 11” and longer

If you are looking for a grand piano for your home, a popular choice is the baby grand. These pianos have amazing sound quality, are extremely aesthetically pleasing, and don't take up a ton of space. Some baby grands are meticulously hand-crafted and can take up to 12 months to produce. They are also affordable but still have the rich sound you want from a grand piano.

 

Digital Pianos

digital

A compact and cost-efficient type of piano is the digital piano. Digital pianos have only been around for the past 30 years or so, but they have come a long way from when they were first introduced. Today, they have excellent sound and can even have gravity-based, spring-free action to feel like a grand piano.

Digital pianos are very versatile and can be a good choice for beginners or professionals. They cost less, weigh less, and do not have to be tuned. They also can be plugged into headphones, which can be very convenient in small houses or apartments.

 

Contact West Music Piano Division

Whether you are just starting to learn how to play the piano, or have been performing for years, having the correct type of piano that fits your needs can make all the difference in playing. Choosing the right piano is a complex and important decision that should not be rushed.

Feel free to stop by your local West Music store to test out your options personally. We offer a wide variety of pianos - vertical, grand, digital, and even used models - and have knowledgeable and helpful piano associates to assist you. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to see all our different available models, please call West Music at 800-373-2000 or head to our piano website at pianos.westmusic.com.

 


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Des Moines March 2017 Musician of the Month: Lucas Clark
By West Music Company
3/29/2017 1:17:00 PM  

Lucas ClarkLucas Clark is in the 3rd grade in West Des Moines. He has studied guitar with Mark Willie for six months. Mark Willie believes Lucas deserves recognition because “Lucas has consistently shown hard work and dedication since day one. He always comes into lessons prepared and can demonstrate his knowledge of the material. His talent and ambition combined leave no doubt that he has great potential to go far in music.” Lucas’ main musical goal is to master his instrument. His advice to other musicians: “Always try your hardest and never give up. Be prepared. Practice and listen!”

Lucas loves learning new songs and new chords. He enjoys performing songs for people and loves playing with his family. His dad plays multiple instruments and his sister sings and is a great jazz drummer. Sometimes Lucas performs songs for his class. Last year he played The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run” for a crowd at a ski resort. One of Lucas’ favorite music genres to play is surf rock, but he’s a fan of different types of music including: The Strokes, Bon Jovi, The Beach Boys, and The Ventures.

Lucas’ other interests include playing lots of sports. He loves soccer, tennis, and golf. He enjoys snowboarding while in the mountains, and at home he loves playing with his dogs and being outside.

One surprising fact is that Lucas’ great-grandfather was best friends with Lawrence Welk, and played with him before he became famous. Lawrence even asked his great-grandfather to go on the road with him, but had to turn him down. That’s awesome! 


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Urbandale February 2017 Musican of the Month: Mitchell Logan
By West Music Company
3/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Mitchell Logan is a 4th grader within the West Des Moines School District. He has been a piano student at West Music studying under Janet Winship for 2 years. Along with the piano, Mitchell plays the recorder, as well as the viola in the West Des Moines beginning orchestra program.

Janet Winship believes Mitchell deserves recognition because “Mitchell is an active participant in class and highly motivated. He pays attention to the details and memorizes his music quickly and carefully. Time flies in class and always makes us wish we had more time to play piano.” Mitchell loves playing music because “It’s very satisfying to learn a new song and completely get it.” One of his musical goals is to become a better viola and recorder player.

While away from the piano bench, Mitchell participates in Taekwondo Team JETT and an awesome light saber club! Some of his other interests include playing with nerf guns, LEGOs, and traveling. Mitchell’s favorite musician is Lindsey Stirling who is known for her Dubstep violin original song “Crystallize”. One surprising fact we learned about Mitchell is that he had surgery on his stomach when he was a baby. Whoa!

Congrats, Mitchell!!

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Tags: Janet Winship, piano, student, lessons, west des moines, urbandale
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Piano Gallery
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Dry Winter Equals Dry Pianos
By Nelda Witting
2/7/2017 8:32:00 AM  

Piano maintenance advice and tips by Nelda Wittig, West Music Piano Consultant.

Piano Care

You may have just made an investment in a piano or you have had one for years. Learn how to properly maintain your piano in the Midwest where temperatures dip and humidy is difficult to keep level. Since 85% of a piano is made of wood, it is important that your piano keeps a consistent humidity level between 40-50%. Just like a living tree that responds to the environment, the wood in your piano will respond to the ever changing environment in your home.

When the humidity inside your home drops below the ideal of 40-50% humidity, you may notice some changes in the piano—some minor; some costly.

Wooden action parts shrink when they become too dry, and they become loose and start to rattle and make noise.  This puts early wear on your action and repairs in your future!

Cracks may appear in the soundboard (the heart of a piano), or on the bridges, or in the pin block.  Any of these cracks can be a costly fix.

Pitch and tone will fluctuate with the dry environment. 

What’s the solution? A humidifier system can be installed in your upright or grand piano and will keep the soundboard area constant. We suggest installing a dual system which will remove excess moisture in the air and will also add moisture if needed. You may want to also purchase a hygrometer to keep in or nearby your piano to have a continuous readout of humidity. Your piano will thank you!

Our experts at West Music are available to install a humidifier system into almost any piano, or answer any you might have about the care of your instrument. Contact your local West Music store for more information.

Learn more about West Music's piano galleries and services: pianos.westmusic.com


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Urbandale January 2017 Musician of the Month: Morgan Sullivan
By West Music Company
1/2/2017 3:17:00 PM  
Morgan Sullivan has studied piano with teacher Emily Walter for 1 year. Morgan is a 4th grader within the Johnston community who loves learning new things every day and sets goals to play challenging songs on the piano.

Some of Morgan’s other artistic interests involve playing the recorder, dancing, singing, and writing. Her favorite musician is Taylor Swift and she loves listening to pop music. Morgan also participates in gymnastics and soccer. Fun facts about Morgan: She was born in Milwaukee and she is left-handed.

Emily Walter referred Morgan for Musician of the Month because “Morgan always comes to her piano lesson prepared and with a great attitude! She is a hard worker and is wonderful at taking risks to learn new songs.” Morgan’s advice to other musicians: “Be patient because you need to learn the easy songs before you play the harder songs.”

Good advice, Morgan! Congratulations!

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Urbandale December 2016 Musician of the Month: Charlie LaCroix
By West Music Company
12/1/2016 8:32:00 AM  
Charlie LaCroix has been studying piano with Dr. Asia Grant for 2 ½ years. He is a 3rd grader in the West Des Moines community and he is preparing for his first recital in December. Along with playing piano, Charlie’s musical goals include playing percussion in the 5th grade band.

While away from the piano bench, Charlie can be found playing basketball, reading, and writing stories, as well as supporting his sister, Anna, who plays violin. Dr. Grant nominated Charlie for Musician of the Month as “he is exceptionally dedicated and a very quick learner.”

Congratulations, Charlie!

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Urbandale May 2016 Musicican of the Month: Kaylyn Jensen
By West Music Company
5/1/2016 8:05:00 AM  
Kaylyn is in 6th grade at Summit Middle School, she has studied piano with Janet Winship at the Des Moines Piano Gallery for two years. Janet says about Kaylyn: "Kaylyn has never missed a lesson. She treats each day of practice as an opportunity to become a better musician than she was the day before. Kaylyn has participated 5 times over the past year in recitals and piano festivals. She performs with a confidence and artistry that is delightful to her audience and inspiring to other piano players. Simply put - Kaylyn uses her head and always plays from the heart."

Kaylyn's goals are to play more advanced music as she gets older, like the original Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata. Her advice to other musicians is to challenge yourself with challenging pieces. She says she loves playing music because "it lets me be creative and discover new things about myself."

Kaylyn also plays the trombone, and is involved in soccer, basketball, softball, and track. She is involved in TSA (Technology Student Association) and enjoys gardening, cooking, skiing. reading, sports, science, and history. Her favorite music genres are classical and movie/game theme songs.

Some things you may be suprised to learn about Kaylyn is that she's skied in the Rocky Mountains and started her own vegetable garden.

Great job, Kaylyn! Keep up the good work!

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