I just wanted to comment on John Tuttle's observations about the
decrease in sentimentality of player pianos translating into people
being less willing to spend needed money on them. He interestingly also
related this trend to a huge decrease in band participation by young
people. I have been thinking the same thing myself.
I believe the present situation has everything to do with the music, and
with "music" aggressively marketed towards young people, and overall
cultural changes as well.
I'm 39 and I play trumpet in a community band. In this band there are
three people younger than I am and thirty people older. I believe the
main reason for this age disparity is the declining use of old-fashioned
instruments (i.e., those that are not electric, electronic, or digital)
in today's music. The money we get paid for gigs doesn't cover our
expenses, and we pay dues as band members. I am considered strange by
many for immersing myself in the type of music ("inappropriate" for my
age) that is associated with automatic musical instruments, even leaving
out my other quirks.
However, there are also many signs which I find very positive from my
own experience. When the community band plays (St. Patrick's Day,
Memorial Day etc.), we always draw a good-sized crowd of people of all
ages and diverse backgrounds. Talentwise, as a group, we are good but
not great, and we always get a rousing applause that goes well beyond
polite applause. The grand opening of the Empire State Carousel drew
thousands of people, including many big politicians. People of all ages
had a great time. As individuals, we are an interesting bunch. PBS
aired four fifteen-minute segments on AMICA's Lady Liberty Chapter,
featuring several of our members. Lady Liberty Chapter members have
appeared on BBC, CNN, and in Newsweek and many local newspapers and
magazines. When my player piano appears in public, it never gets
ignored, and the overall response is very positive to both the music and
the player piano itself. Kids enthusiastically say "Cool," after
discovering the player piano. Older people dance and sing along.
People of all ages want to know how the heck the thing works. There is
an ever-increasing novelty effect and a large amount of sentimentality
surrounding the instrument.
The trend John mentions is a very real one. The news isn't all bad;
but, as John says, fewer and fewer people are willing to put the needed
money into these instruments, as the sentimentality level decreases. As
someone in the service/restoration business, I am exploring other
avenues for making money. Society seems to be changing at such a fast
rate, there is no telling where it's all going.