Stuart & Sons Sassafras Grand Piano

Jan 29, 2016

Newcastle Art Gallery is fortunate to have a Stuart and Sons studio grand in Tasmanian blackheart sassafras.

“I see no honour in reproduction or copying: I only see honour in creativity and exploration”.

These are the words of Wayne Stuart, who created a piano with a new frequency range, more keys (102), revolutionary mechanisms, and a fourth pedal for modulation thus achieving a unique, wonderfully responsive sound. Stuart has devoted decades to researching and developing a piano that redefines the instrument for the modern era. For twenty years he worked from a factory in Newcastle, supplying handcrafted pianos worldwide. Technical innovation and exquisite workmanship make his pianos true works of art.

Newcastle Art Gallery is fortunate to have a Stuart and Sons studio grand in Tasmanian blackheart sassafras, which is in regular use to bring music into the Gallery. The piano was a gift from the Foundation to the collection. Originally conceived as a major feature of a redeveloped Gallery, it nevertheless has found a comfortable home in the current Gallery.


Image: Robert Henderson introducing a concert function.

It was with some trepidation but much excitement that the Board embraced the idea of this ambitious acquisition. A fund-raising campaign was launched at the Piano Factory in October 2012, and donors soon came forward to share in the venture. Some substantial individual gifts were made, but none was greater than money raised by the inspired and persistent efforts of Board members, and especially Denise Frost, who attracted donations by “selling” individual keys. Donors received a piano key as a memento – sawn from a real piano and adorned with a red tassel – lovingly created by Denise and her husband Peter. A model keyboard displays the names of the donors, and records the gifts made by individuals, groups, NAG Society, NAG Guides, community organisations, and the partners, children and grandchildren of Foundation members (many of whom have become members in their own right).

The piano was unveiled with suitable ceremony at the inaugural Sassafras Concert on 29 September 2013 which featured Brenda Jones (piano) and Timo Veikke-Valve (cello)playing a program of works by Ginastera, Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin.

Since then, the classics, jazz, music for all occasions has provided Gallery visitors with a regular stream of musical experiences. The piano and the Gallery remain in demand from musicians eager to play this magnificent instrument.

Lindy Henderson

Honorary Foundation Archivist