A 100-year-old piano with a rich history gets new life

A majestic Mr. Schulz grand piano with golden scrollwork that has been in the Wold family for nearly a century has a new owner and a crisp new sound.

The piano changed hands earlier this year when Juliane Lore of Laurel acquired it from Joy Thurner whose great-grandmother Idelle Boyer bought it in the 1920s. Boyer’s performance piano was lodged at the Wilma Theater in Missoula where she performed with the silent movies, but at home she performed on the Schulz, which still had a beautiful tone and swirls on the front that were just as stunning. In the 1940s Boyer moved to Laurel and brought her beloved piano with her.

When Thurner was growing up in Laurel as a member of the Wold family, she played her great-grandmother’s piano, reluctantly practicing scales until she could come up with the best compositions. As a young mother, Thurner said the piano gave her special time just for herself.

“When my kids were little, I put them to bed and then I practiced. That was my time to play.”

When his daughters came home from college, this was one of the first things they looked for: the family piano.

“Our daughter would play Scott Joplin. Some of the other music we played was show tunes.

Thurner and her husband carried this piano from house to house until they got back to Laurel.

“It was very well done. When we moved here, we put in ramps to move it around. It’s been there for 30 years.”

About a year ago, Thurner decided to sell the family piano because no one played it anymore. It stayed on Craigslist for so long that Thurner thought no one wanted antique upright pianos anymore. Then Lore heard about it, delighted to find a piano to play again and surprised at its historical significance.

“He went to a good home,” Thurner said. “It was important to me.”

Lore became even more excited when she found Wendell Wilson, a Billings piano tuner, one of the last to still tune by ear. Wilson, now 86, has been tuning pianos for 62 years. When Wilson recently visited the Laurel de Lore house to tune the Schulz, he spoke of the remarkable condition of the Schulz and the piano tuning activity.

“I start with the C and then tune from there,” he said.

Looking at the dining room of the Schulz in Lore, he admired the finish.

“It’s in great shape. Older pianos have a music box instead. The hammer is bigger and it’s a totally different sound.

Wilson started out as a Quaker minister when he found his other profession as a piano tuner. He borrowed the $200 needed to take a piano tuning course, paying it back at $5 a month. He used the piano he bought as collateral. Since he had no money to pay for some of the materials needed for repairs, he made his own.

“I took popsicle sticks and cut them up,” he said.

For many years, Wilson worked with a college professor in Pueblo, Colorado, often tuning his piano “because he was beating that thing to death.”

He also tuned pianos for Fleetwood Mac and the Osmonds who always played on grand pianos.

The only thing that held him back for all these years of adjustment was back surgery in May 2019. But a few months after the surgery he took his daughter Marie on the road with him and she did some of the most physical job he could’t do.

“If they call for help, I want to help them,” Wilson said.

It’s special that the Schulzs are staying in Laurel, maybe another century.


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