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Over 350 Hours Dedicated to Restoration of "Golden Age" Mason & Hamlin Piano

Over 350 Hours Dedicated to Restoration of "Golden Age" Mason & Hamlin Piano

Published on September 27, 2023

The gift of the Nuttall Family Mason & Hamlin was spearheaded by the late Geoff Nuttall, beloved RCM alumnus  

The Royal Conservatory of Music has over 100 pianos at its TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, which means that for another piano to be added to the roster, it must first pass stringent criteria.

The Nuttall Family Mason & Hamlin was generously given by the Nuttall family – a gift spearheaded by the late Geoff Nuttall, a beloved alumnus of The Conservatory who passed away in 2022 from cancer

Mason & Hamlin is a Massachusetts-based manufacturer and this specific instrument was determined to have been built during the golden age of American piano makers – circa 1930.  Up until this time, The Conservatory did not own a Mason & Hamlin and having one expands the variety of experiences that can be offered to RCM students. 

Pianos with potential are given the luxury of being restored to their original glory to ensure that they meet the very high standards of The Royal Conservatory.  The Mason & Hamlin restoration took over 350 hours over the period of a year to complete by Damon Groves, Head Piano Technician at The Royal Conservatory, who did both structural and mechanical work on the piano including: 

  • Installing a new pin block – a main structural component that houses the tuning pins; 
  • Recapping and notching the bridge – one of the most crucial parts of any restoration; 
  • Restringing and replacing damper felts; 
  • Adding new keytops and key bushings, new wippens (the heart of the grand piano mechanism), and new hammers/hammer shanks. 

Before a piano can be added to The Conservatory’s inventory, it is first tested by James Anagnoson, Dean of The Glenn Gould School, and an acclaimed pianist. Said Dean Anagnoson, “This exceptional instrument has a particularly rich and warm sound, making possible an array of tonal colours and nuances. It is a pleasure to play, and will be a valuable resource for our students and faculty alike.” 

“The idea of saving such a beautiful-sounding instrument is perfectly in line with who Geoff was,” said Barry Shiffman, Glenn Gould School Associate Dean and co-founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet with Mr. Nuttall. “I am touched and grateful to Damon for restoring it, and to Jim for authorizing this. Geoff’s legacy will live on at The Royal Conservatory.” 

The instrument is now an invaluable addition to the RCM's extensive roster of pianos and is being used by students in the Ihnatowycz Piano Program at The Glenn Gould School. The restoration of the Nuttall Family Mason & Hamlin piano was done in the Florence Man and Bernard Sze Piano Technology Workshop at The Royal Conservatory.