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Historical Instrument--ca. 1890 Grotrian Steinweg Grand Piano

Both Grotrian-Steinweg and Steinway & Sons derive from Heinrich Englehard Steinweg and the building of his first piano in 1835 at the family's hometown of Seesen, Harz, Germany. Following the 1848 revolution in Germany, Heinrich and most of the family emigrated to the USA in 1850 and founded Steinway in New York in 1853.

Meanwhile the eldest son, Christian Friedrich Theodor Steinweg continued the family business in Germany. He was joined in 1858 by Friedrich Grotrian (1803-1860) who, on inheriting a substantial sum from an uncle, had sold his musical instrument business in Moscow and returned to his German homeland of Braunschweig. Unfortunately Friedrich died two years later, but his son Wilhelm joined the company, then called Grotrian Steinweg.

Theodor, on the deaths of two of his brothers at Steinway in 1865, sold his share in the business to his partners and joined Steinway & Sons in New York. So the Steinweg company was then owned by Wilhelm Grotrian, Adolf Helfferich and HOW Schulz. Needing new premises the company moved to Braunschweig in 1859.

The family name Grotrian Steinweg was adopted by Wilhelm's sons Willi and Kurt in 1919 (hyphenated from 1926) and the company remains under the auspices of the family at Braunschweig where it still makes about 1,000 pianos per year in enlarged premises. It was the same year that the Oberlin Conservatory was founded in Oberlin, Ohio, USA.

This 6'8" Steinweg grand was purchased by Ms. Ottley in the late 1990s from its rebuilder, Kun Hee Lee, who had purchased it from its original owner, a very old German lady living in northern Virginia. It still has the seal of the store where it was purchased in Munchen, Germany on the cover. The piano wasbuilt around the 1880s, and still has a beautiful tone.

Historical Instrument--1887-1888 Estey Harmonium

The Estey Organ Company was founded in 1846.

"The Estey Organ Company manufactured excellent reed organs for more than half a century before engaging the Roosevelt-trained Philadelphia builder, William E. Haskell(1865-1927), to open the pipe organ department in 1901. During the next fifty-nine years, the company built and rebuilt 3261 pipe organs, and with one exception, all of the Estey instruments had tubular-pneumatic or electro-pneumatic action. The large Estey factory continued to build reed organs, and Estey also dealt in Rieger tracker organs in the 1950's.

"During the first decades of the century, the Estey catalogs described standard designs, the stoplists having no upperwork but that Haskell specialty, a labial reed stop. The stop actions included such oddities as the "stop key" and "luminous" types, and while the organs were built of excellent materials, they were often so compact that maintenance was expensive and nearly impossible to perform. Estey concentrated on stock model two-manual instruments and regarded any deviation in size and specification as a "Special" job. Most of the older organs were sold through agents and Estey stores, and a company policy forbid any dealing in old organs replaced by Esteys. Many organs shipped to the stores or music dealers were not immediately set up in a permanent location, and some with "Store" on the list remained unsold for years. Player organs (called "Automatics" were popular until the 1930's and for a few years around 1930, "Minuette" models that vaguely resembled grand and upright pianos were build on the unit system.

"Many older Americans still have a great respect for Estey tone, and the firm's name was indeed a household word throughout the world."

The Estey Organ in the Ottley Music School belongs to Mr. Adjahoe and Mrs. Ottley, salvaged from the Macedonia Union African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of Providence, Rhode Island. The organ was built between 1887-1888, about the same time that church was founded, and was probably their first instrument. In 2001 the church changed its musical format, using a Hammond with drums and had no need for this beautiful instrument.

It was designed on the same plan as its European counterparts, and Ottley Music School uses it for performances of such composers as Rossini and Dvorak. It has already been used in performances of Rossini's "Petite Messe Solonelle" and Gounod's "O Divine Redeemer" at Clarice Smith's Gildenhorn Recital Hall. Organists were 14-year-old student, William J. Moore, and Nevilla E. Ottley. Singers included John LeSane of the Washington Opera, and at that time, 13-year-old coloratura, Nichelle Anderson.


Historical Instrument--1908 Erard Grand Piano

This Erard grand piano in rosewood, serial number 94154, was manufactured [Par Bievet d'Invention Seb. & Pre. Erard] at 13 + 21 Rue de Mail, Paris in 1908. It is 6'6" long and with a full eight-octave range. It was sold from Sautier & Jaeger Pianos, etc. in Geneva, for their sticker was still on the front of the fall cover when we received it.

Erard pianos were the biggest and most admired concert instruments during the early and mid 19th century. Sebastian Erard, also known for manufacturing harps, made his early pianos for Napoleon Bonaparte, and Joseph Haydn. In 1802 the firm gave a complimentary instrument to Ludwig van Beethoven. Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Moscheles, Herz, Verdi and Faure are just a few of the famous composers who owned Erard Pianos. In 1821, Erard invented the double-escapement piano action, which served as the prototype for the modern piano action perfected by Theodor Steinweg, for the Grotrian Steinweg and the Steinway and Sons pianos. The new action made it possible to play a series of repeated notes with great ease and speed, and it also produced a wide range of dynamic shadings.

The Erard piano at the Ottley Music School was donated to Ms. Ottley in 2001 for the school to either use it or dispose of it. It was in very poor shape, but in the eyes Dr. Edward Swenson of New York (singer, historian and rebuilder of vintage Erards), who was referred to us by several Erard piano aficionados around the country, he saw its potential. The restored parts (except for the keys) came from various Belgium and France.  Dr. Swenson was careful to preserve the orginal inscription as seen in the last photo.  This beautiful instrument is being used by its owner for teaching in Ottley Music School, and is one of the few Erards in the Washington, D. C. area. It has a beautiful sweet tone, and according to some of the teachers, it "plays itself".

Preserved original inprint
Square end of Erard

Historical Piano, 1914 C. Kurtzmann

The Ottley Music School has a C. Kurtzmann piano of Buffalo New York, a 6'8" grand built in 1914. It was donated to the Ottley Music School by pianist Granville Klink. He the son of the late legendary Washington DC broadcaster, Granville "Granny" Klink (1909-1997) of WTOP

Granville, Jr. studied pianist Felicia Rybier, who escaped to the USA in 1938. She was a pianist with the Warsaw Orchestra in the 1930s. Granville studied with her from 1955-1961. He attended school at Peabody Conservatory . He was the director of the New Sunshine Jazz Band, and collected piano rolls of Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, Scott Joplin, and James P. Johnson. He was known for his transcriptions of their piano rolls.

The Kurtzmann piano is used for recitals in the Atrium Stage of UTC's Building 3 monthly.
Nevilla Ottley and Granville \

Historical Instrument--1917 Steiff Upright Grand

The Stieff Company was founded in 1892 in Baltimore, Maryland by Charles Stieff, grandson of the piano maker. According to a 1937 Stieff catalogue, they were "Makers of sterling silver and 14-K gold. The Schofield Co. was purchased in 1967 and in 1979 The Stieff Company purchased Samuel Kirk & Son, Inc. and changed the firm's name to The Kirk Stieff Company.

To this date, Stieff pianos still exist in the Washington/Baltimore area. This 1917 instrument, was bought by Nevilla Ottley in 1972 for $50 from a girls school that no longer wanted it. It was repaired for $175, replacing the flanges. It has been consistently used for teaching even after the Steinway and other historical pianos were purchased. It has a solid sound, holds its pitch, and has a resounding lower sound, as if amplified. It was rebuilt by Schaeffer and Sons of Rockville, Maryland in 1996. Schaeffer's Piano Company telephone number is 301-424-1144.

To change from teaching music and languages to dealing in pianos, and finally to become the founder of one of the largest and most respected piano manufacturing firms, was the career of Charles Maximilian Stieff. Born in Wurtembrug on July 19, 1805, Stieff was educated at Stuttgart. In 1831 he emigrated to America and settled at Baltimore, where he took the chair in Haspart's school as professor of languages and also acted as leader of a church choir. In 1842 he imported his first pianos from Germany, and opened regular piano warerooms on Liberty Street in 1843. Observing the success of the various piano manufacturers in Baltimore, Stieff undertook an extensive trip to Europe in 1852, studying the methods of the best piano manufacturers there. Upon his return he admitted his sons into partnership and started the manufacture of the "Stieff" piano, intrusting the management of the factory to Jacob Gross, an expert piano maker of the old school.

Born in Wurtemburg on July 26, 1819, Gross learned his trade in Stuttgart and afterward worked in some of the leading factories of Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Paris. Coming to America in 1848, he familiarized himself with the methods prevailing here, working in Troy, NY then going to Baltimore. He had worked for the Stieff Piano Factory from 1856, and on Christmas day, 1860 he had married Catharina Christiana Stieff (1833-1906), daughter of Charles Maximilian Stieff, owner. His joining the Stieff family business was an excellent combination, the professional musician and businessman, Stieff, supported by the artistic piano maker and factory expert, Gross. The product of the firm was at once accepted as of superior merit and received distinguished awards wherever exhibited. The founder of the firm having passed to the unknown beyond, the business was carried on most successfully by his sons, Charles and Frederick P. Stieff, the technical management of the factories being in the hands of Charles J. Gross, who was educated by his father, Jacob Gross. It was remarkable that the great fire which destroyed nearly the entire business portion of the city of Baltimore in 1904 should stop short in its northward flight on the wall of the Stieff building, on North Libery Street, just as if it had had respect for this landmark where the Stieffs had sold pianos for 63 years. The firm of Charles M. Stieff used to distribute its products almost entirely through its own stores, which were found in every prominent city of the southern States, as well as at Boston and elsewhere.


This wonderful instrument is still used in teaching piano on a daily basis as it was the first done when purchased in Mrs. Ottley's first piano studio in 1973.  It has a wonderful warm tone.  At one time, her elderly father, Neville E. Ottley (born 1914) asked her why she put speakers in the piano, as the sound resounded on the wooden floors in her home at that time.


Historical Instrument--1925 Steinway O model grand piano

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (1797-1871).

Henry (Heinrich in German) lost most of his family when he was young.  Several brothers were killed during the Napoleonic war, and he lost his father and remaining brother at age 15.  Although he had no musical training, he displayed a talent in building musical instruments. The first instrument he built was a zither.  In 1818, he started work in an organ builder's shop, learned how to play the organ, and became a church organist. He built his first piano in his kitchen in Seesen, which he presented to his bride Juliane Thiemer in February 1825 as a wedding gift. They later had seven children. The uprisings of 1848-49 in Germany did not leave the Steinweg family untouched. The business suffered and so he left for America in 1850, one year after his son Henry left for the new world.

Upon arriving in America, he and his sons worked in a piano factory. He then founded Steinway & Sons on March 5, 1853. The first factory was located at 81 Walker Street, in Manhattan.  A new factory was founded in 1859 at Park Avenue and 53rd Street, the present site of the Seagrams Building, where it covered a whole block. All the children, with the exception of Christian Friedrich Theodor (1825-1889), who had remained in Germany, worked in the business. Christian Friedrich Theodor came to the US in 1865 to help manage the family business, which shortly afterwards moved to Astoria, Long Island, where it now comprises an enormous complex on Steinway Street.  In 1871, Henry Sr. died and sons C.F. Theodor and William took over operations.

An accomplished pianist, C.F. Theodor was responsible for the technical aspects of piano making and personally earned the company 41 patents, including one in 1875 for the modern concert grand piano. In the same year, William helped establish a showroom in London. Five years later, in 1880, the Hamburg factory began operating and a retail operation, the Steinway-Haus, was established. Another retail operation opened in Berlin in 1909. The American firm prospered swiftly with new improvements in pianos, including over strung scale a cast-iron frame. They also built the first upright piano in 1866.

The Steinways were not only piano builders. They also had an impact on the culture and structural development of New York City.  In 1866 Steinway & Sons opened the first Steinway Hall on 14th Street. With a main auditorium of 2,000 seats, it became New York City's artistic and cultural center, housing the New York Philharmonic until Carnegie Hall opened in 1891.   William (1835-1896), president of Steinway & Sons (1876-96), was the first chairman of Rapid Transit Commission of New York City, which planned New York' s first subway.

The first Steinway grand was presented to the White House in 1903 during President Theodore Roosevelt's term. On December 10, 1938 Theodore E. Steinway presented the "golden grand" to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was the 300,000th instrument build by the firm and it can be seen on tours of the White House in the East Room. Another Steinway grand, on which President Henry S. Truman frequently played, now stands in the Truman Library of Independence.

The 5'11" Steinway grand in the Ottley Music School was purchased by Nevilla Ottley in the early 1980s from Ann Foster of Pennsylvania.  Ms. Ottley has used that piano for teaching and for performances ever since.

Historical Instrument--Violin

Ottley Music School owns and uses weekly the practice violin of the late Abram Moses, concert master of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 1880-1953.  It was given to the Ottley Music School by his daughter, Cece Litchenstein in about 2003 and is used by the teachers in the OMS while teaching their lessons. Even though it was a practice violin by the great master, it is the favorite violin of the teachers.

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