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Kathie Warnock of Bountiful takes special care when she vacuums. Her piano is made of glass, after all. "When I was in my early teens I saw a glass piano and I thought, 'You know, some day I want one,' " Warnock said.
The Warnocks recently remodeled their house creating a perfect spot for a grand piano in the new living room and Warnock's husband brought up her lifelong dream. "He said, 'If it's something you've always wanted, let's go ahead and get it,' " Warnock said.
There is only one company in the world that makes glass pianos, Schimmel Pianos in Germany. With the help of Baldassin Performance Pianos in North Salt Lake City, the Warnocks scoured the country for the rare instrument. They finally found one in California.
"We flew to Los Angeles, saw the piano and flew home," Warnock said. "We went and played it and fell in love with it."
The unusual instrument became even more unique last week when Nikolaus Schimmel, president of Schimmel Pianos, came to autograph it. Schimmel was in the United States for a grand tour before his retirement.
Schimmel's father designed and manufactured his first glass piano in 1951. Since 1985, the Schimmel Piano company has made about eight glass pianos a year, for a total of 150. Of those, only five in the world are the same design as Warnock's, with ebony and gold accents around the side.
During the recent visit, Schimmel said most of the glass pianos, including the one he has in his home in Germany, are white.
"This is really, really unique," Schimmel said of Warnock's piano. "This is a little more traditional."
There is one other piano like Warnock's in the United States, along with one each in Moscow, Hong Kong and Germany.
Maintenance for a glass piano is not as complicated as one might think, Warnock said.
The piano, made of thick, sturdy Plexiglas, weighs about 20 percent more than a wooden piano. At 880 pounds, it is not easily cracked or shattered. Small scratches can be buffed out and Warnock uses vinegar-based window cleaner to wipe off smudges and fingerprints. Her three children love to grasp the glass sides of the piano and watch the hammers and strings move through the clear top.
"Usually, with grand pianos you can't see as much," Warnock said. "But with this the kids just love to stare at all the keys moving, which is really fun for them."
Since the arrival of the glass piano in May, the Warnock children have also enjoyed practicing the piano more. According to Schimmel, the music-making components of the glass piano are the same as those of a traditional wooden piano, but something sounds different to the Warnocks.
"It sounds so much better," said Jodie Warnock, 13, who has been taking piano lessons for seven years.
Most wooden grand pianos cost between $20,000 and $50,000 but Warnock said she never worries about her children using the $80,000 glass grand.
"I thought, 'If I'm going to have it I can't be nervous about it because I want my kids to enjoy it,' " she said. "I just wipe off their fingerprints."
Warnock also enjoys playing her unique piano.
"A lot of kids are forced to take piano," she said. "My parents had eight kids and not a lot of money so a lady down the street who was about 80 years old taught me piano if my dad would mow her lawn. I learned to love the piano because she gave of her time."
Getting up is easier since the glass piano arrived.
Warnock said she used to yell to get her children out of bed, now she sits down at her glass piano and plays. "They know that's their cue," she said.
Because of the joy the glass piano has brought to her home, Warnock picked a special message for Schimmel to inscribe on the gold plate of the piano, right next to the exposed strings and hammers. With a black felt tip pen, Schimmel carefully wrote, "Kathie, Joy to you and your family."
"Our living is people enjoying the piano," Schimmel told her when he was done. "I think a piano must speak to people. It must touch their hearts."