Ohio man imports 1,300 pounds of pianos

Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Robert Siegfried only dabbles in music, but he can sure carry a tune.

Several hundred pounds worth of tune, in fact.

Siegfried, of Cincinnati, arrived in Juneau on Friday after spending six days on the Alaska Highway in an old moving truck.

His cargo? Four pianos.

Turns out his nephew, Douglas Ward, owner of Dolphin Jet Boat Tours, has two daughters who are "about piano-playing age," Siegfried said. Siegfried collects and repairs pianos and he's a huge fan of Ward's kids, Sommer, 3, and Raven, 1.

But one piano was not enough.

"I figured I'd take a truckload," Siegfried reasoned. "If you're going to drive a truck, you might as well fill it up."

In addition to the player piano he brought for his relatives, Siegfried packed a Wurlitzer electric piano and a couple of standard uprights. All told, they tip the scales at some 1,300 pounds.

Siegfried thought he might be able to pawn off the other pianos once he got to town. It isn't a money-making venture, though. He'll give any proceeds from the sales to his church in Cincinnati.

Already, Capital Records owner Robert Cohen is interested in the Wurlitzer, which he's put on display in his Nugget Mall store.

"Wurlitzer was the first company to perfect what's now known as the electric piano," said Cohen, a piano teacher and player who jams with local groups. "I told him I'd be happy to try to find a buyer for it I'm actually quite tempted to buy it."

The truck cabin was packed full too. Siegfried made the trip with his brother, John Siegfried, and his brother-in-law, Bob Licht. The vehicle, a former U-Haul truck put to pasture, wasn't the epitome of comfort.

"Oh, it was terrible," said Siegfried, 70. "But we stuck it out. We kept driving, 12 hours a day."

Siegfried said many people in the Cincinnati area buy or sell homes with pianos that aren't wanted. He offers to pick them up, adding to his collection.

He learned to play the piano himself when he was 45, but said he wasn't a natural. "Being a professional engineer, that was easier for me to pick up than the piano," he said.

The pianos continue to sit in the back of the road-grime-covered moving truck parked next to the Dolphin Jet Boat Tours office at Merchants Wharf. A number of people have come by to look at the pianos. Some have expressed interest in buying one.

"It's quite a strong enclosed sound system," said Ward, the tour company owner, of the acoustically tight moving van studio. "We had one prospective buyer come by yesterday. She hopped from one piano to the next, playing one piece and then another, and wonderful music just comes out."

Siegfried said he'll stay in Juneau, "until I can get rid of the damn pianos."

He's also planning on selling the truck, saying he's too old to do a round trip on the Alaska Highway in an old moving van that burns oil.

"I'm flying back home," he promised.

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