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After a Century, They're Still Playing the Same Tune
By Kris Decker
November 1, 2002



Renee Trinca of Schoenhut

In 1872, German-born immigrant Albert Schoenhut fashioned a toy piano for his landlord's daughter. At the time, he probably never imagined one of his creations would be played in a venue like Carnegie Hall. But last April, Margaret Leng Tan, considered "the world's premiere string piano virtuoso," did just that. Schoenhut himself might have been surprised, but toy piano aficionados were not.

Renee Trinca, co-owner/operator of Schoenhut Piano Company, Inc. (toypiano.com) confirms that toy pianos have a wide appeal. "Lots of professional musicians use Schoenhut toy pianos in their recordings because they have such a rich, chime-like tone."

Renee and husband Len Trinca bought the Schoenhut Piano Company seven years ago, recognizing the value of quality and craftsmanship that has been a Schoenhut tradition for decades. But why would two people with "no musical background" purchase a toy piano company?

"We'd just never seen anything like [the pianos] before…they were a beautiful, unique product."

What's so unique is that Schoenhut pianos are not simply replicas of real pianos, but are authentic musical instruments. Each piano is chromatically tuned, educating the ear of beginning musicians. Correct spacing between keys teaches "finger stretch," a required skill for playing standard size pianos.

Schoenhut Young Player - Max

Additionally, Schoenhut pianos feature the patented tri-play learning system, a color-coordinated technique that matches color- and tone-association to every note. And despite its "real musical instrument" status, each Schoenhut is built to endure rough play by any level of performer.

"As soon as kids are able to sit up on their own, they're ready to start playing one of our pianos," laughs Trinca. "An employee just brought their six-month-old in and he was infatuated by a little red piano I have."

During their first year of business, the Trincas really only expected orders to come from toy stores. They were pleased to discover that the market stretched beyond that to include professional musicians, schools, museums, catalog companies, gift and department stores. Business has increased 10-12% every year since then.


Schoenhut Baby Grand Piano

So how can a centuries-old company keep their product line fresh and exciting? Designing new models every year stimulates a steady growth in sales, as well as continuing to offer popular favorites, like the Classic Baby Grand, the Traditional Spinet and My First Piano.

However, success for this company is not simply defined in terms of sales. Schoenhuts is a family-type business where office staff and factory workers are also best friends. Located in St. Augustine, Florida, the Schoenhut team reports for work early each day, (so they can hit the beach in the afternoon, reports Trinca). Hard work and long hours don't faze these employees. They're all just happy to be a part of the Schoenhut Company's continued success.

In an era of electronic toys and computerized playthings, some might find it surprising that Schoenhut Piano Company continues to be successful.

"I don't think classic toys will ever go out of style," says Renee Trinca.

Obviously collectors, professional musicians, and most importantly, thousands of children around the world would agree.


RELATED LINKS:

Industry Overview: Music and Toys
Product Summary:
   Musical CD's, Cassettes, Videos and DVD's for the Younger Set
   Musical Toys Spotlight
   Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby
What the Experts Say:
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

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