DuBOIS — Sitting inside Aegis Coffee Roasters in downtown DuBois one afternoon, 2-year-old Remy Pastorius walked up to the colorful upright piano on display against the wall.
And even though she may not have been old enough to read the words painted in black on the front of the piano that say, “Play Me,” Pastorius gently started tapping on the ivory keys while her parents were placing their order at the counter just a few steps away.
A couple of tables over, DuBois Area Middle School music teacher Joe Sensor and his daughter, Maddie Sensor, a senior at the DuBois Area High School, were delighted to see the old piano being used after they worked together to restore it and then donated it to the nonprofit organization, Downtown DuBois Inc.
Several years ago, Joe Sensor started tuning and repairing pianos because there are not many people who offer that service anymore.
“I would sometimes be playing the piano and have a couple of bad notes on the piano, and I was like, ‘Maybe I could fix that,’ so I just started working on my own first,” said Joe Sensor. He eventually started tuning and repairing pianos as a hobby and started a Facebook group called Piano Rescue.
Every now and then, people contact him because they are trying to get rid of their upright piano.
“With this one, I said I would help them find a new home for it,” said Joe Sensor. “And they were moving at the end of July, and I said, ‘Well, if I don’t find a home for it, I’ll take it, put it in my garage.’”
And so, he did exactly that.
“I had it (piano) advertised on Facebook and nobody really was biting, which is kind of common because there’s a lot out there on Facebook,” said Joe Sensor.
With no takers on social media, Joe Sensor came up with the idea to contact the Downtown DuBois group to see if they possibly had a place for it.
A couple of weeks later, Downtown DuBois got back to Joe Sensor and told him they could place it in Aegis, just outside their office doors of the North Central Pennsylvania LaunchBox, powered by Penn State DuBois, at 2 E. Long Ave., in downtown DuBois. When the weather is nice, Joe Sensor said the piano could be taken outside for people to enjoy as well, like it was during the recent Octoberfest held in the downtown.
Shortly after that, Joe Sensor disassembled the piano, sanded and primed it so the paint would stick.
“I did a little bit of work on the inside of it. There were a couple keys that were broken and things like that,” said Joe Sensor.
Maddie Sensor then took over by designing the color scheme of the previously brown-colored piano and brightening it up by painting it red, blue, yellow and black.
“I just wanted to make it all primary colors so that it would stand out and people could see it from a distance,” said Maddie Sensor. “It was about 15 hours of painting altogether. The original plan was to make it look like the Partridge Family bus, like that kind of geometric with all the colors. And then I just decided I was going to paint each part the solid color and then do a black design.”
Maddie Sensor admits she’s not very instrumental but is more of an artist.
“I like singing and I’m a Color Guard in the high school marching band,” said Maddie Sensor, noting that she is considering going to the Rhode Island Institute of Art after graduation.
“I like illustration and art for children’s books,” she said.
Though this is the first upright piano Joe Sensor has “up-cycled,” he has another one in his garage needing some care.
“I can only fit one at a time in my garage. I don’t know if I have a definite home for it yet,” said Joe Sensor. “I mean, it was an idea I’ve seen other places where they do this, so I kind of thought it would make it a little more likely to find a home for it. These days, I think there’s a lot of these old pianos around, so I think we’re trying to make it a little bit more exciting ... encourage people ... try to make it friendly, I guess.”
If people can’t find new homes for the older pianos, they just decide to toss it in a dumpster, he said.
“I’m just trying to find homes for these pianos because I feel bad that ... well first of all, generally they can be pretty decent instruments still,” Joe Sensor said. “They just need a little bit of repair. But these days, most people would much rather have an electronic keyboard in the house, which is fine. I get it. I like playing electronic keyboards, too, but there’s something about the actual physical piano that’s nice.”
“As a music teacher, I like the idea of demystifying music, maybe a little bit?” said Joe Sensor. “And also making it something that people can do in public too — have fun with it.”
Every now and then, Joe Sensor also envisions putting some sheet music on the piano, something easy for people to try to play.
“It’s just cool to see the piano being used,” said Joe Sensor. “I’d rather see them in use instead of sitting in somebody’s dusty living room. I think that’s kind of the ultimate thing.”
If anyone has a piano they are looking to get rid of, or would be interested in one for business or public space, they can contact Joe Sensor at email@example.com.