Meet Gilroy Piano Outlet
Dave has been serving the musical needs of the Bay Area since 1976 and has sold more than $25 million in acoustic and digital pianos. He managed a Yamaha dealership for 10 years and represented Steinway for 22 years with Sherman Clay Co. Among many accomplishments he completed his music studies at the prestigious Boston Conservatory and co-founded Steinway Society the Bay Area., www.steinwaysociety.com. His Father and two brothers are also piano technicians. You will find him an avid supporter of music education and live music. See his personal website for more information, www.davedumont.com.
Gilroy’s ‘Piano Man’ has Keys for AllIf Billy Joel were passing through the South Valley, even the “piano man” would be impressed with Gilroy’s newest outlet store, The Piano Outlet.
He’d have a choice of trying out a $70,000 grand piano that makes notes shimmer and sustain regally, or a $300 boogie woogie upright he could put in the back of his truck. Even he would be impressed with the newest collection of electronic keyboards for $3,000-$5,000 that could fool all but the most discerning player into thinking they are hearing an instrument worth 10 times that amount.
And then, if he turns on his iPhone, he can trigger a piano in the store to play the exact notes in an Alicia Keys or Barbra Streisand song, for the kind of karaoke experience you could never have in a bar. He could even have recordings of them singing along with his playing. And if he wants a guitar, flute or drums in the mix, the electronic keyboards can play them convincingly.
“What you can do right now with an iPad and an electronic keyboard is just amazing,” says Dave Dumont, 62, who has been playing since he was 8 and has backed up some famous musicians, including Frank Sinatra. “I can go out right now and download a Chopin ballade or a Rachmaninoff concerto and put it on my memory stick and go over to that digital piano and insert it and it will play it for me. I can slow it down and I can speed it up and I can do all kinds of things to that information.”
Digital piano technology has been available for decades, but it’s only in the past two years that it could emulate an expensive, beautifully crafted acoustic instrument. It’s an amazing teaching tool, he says, that lets students learn at their own speed, literally. Over the years digital pianos have gone from being comparable to a 286 DOS computer to having the sophistication to pass as a grand piano.
“Just about every CEO in Silicon Valley has one of these now,” he says. “They are compatible with how we listen to music today, on iPads and iPods. But they bring in a whole new element. You can take an actual lesson with Alicia Keys.”
Stocked with 125-150 pianos at a time, the store has been open in a “soft launch” for weeks. It’s not located east of 101 with the rest of the outlets, but at 8401 Church St., a few doors down from Cafe 152 Burger.
It will have its grand opening and ribbon-cutting in May. Meanwhile, Dumont is studying up on Gilroy and figuring out how best to serve customers here. The store’s owner, Scott McBain, has another outlet on Santana Row in San Jose, which has a $140,000 grand, but he and Dumont see huge potential in the Gilroy location. (McBain’s son owns the Bella Viva Ristorante in downtown Gilroy.)
“There’s no piano store from South San Jose to Carmel,” says Dumont. “That’s why we’ve taken the leap to open on Church Street. “With the gentrification of the area and building like the homes on Eagle Ridge and the great music at Gavilan College, it tells us that the musical thermometer here is good.”
They don’t just sell pianos, either. They also have rooms and teachers for lessons and a 75-seat capacity hall for recitals. They rent pianos and will deliver them for a modest fee. They also give free trial lessons with each rented or purchased piano. They also offer in-home recitals, providing a pianist for a house concert for your family and friends.
Dumont says they have to beef up to compete, not with other music stores, but with kids’ attention spans. The keyboards many of them are choosing today are on phones and game consoles, instead of on the instrument that frames so much Western music.
Piano sales have dropped over the years, but the passion of those who play the instrument has grown, says Dumont, who has sold $25 million worth of pianos since 1976. He teaches and hires teachers and is now looking for one who speaks Spanish for the Gilroy store. Students range from 5 to more than 80 years old.
“I’ve yet to find an adult who said to me ‘I’m so glad I quit taking piano lessons when I was young,’” he says. “Invariably they tell me, ‘I wish my parents had disciplined me more. I wish they had made me stick with it.’ Because they’d be playing now. It’s like playing golf. You take lessons and practice and in a year and a half you get muscle memory and you can do it great.”
If sheer enthusiasm can grow a business, the Piano Outlet is in good shape. Dumont is religious in his zeal for piano.
His father, who was a rocket scientist and musician, started Dave on violin at age 3, but he gave it up in favor of the piano at age 8. In junior high school in Long Island, N.Y., the glee club needed an accompanist. Like so many of his generation who picked up guitars as a wooing instrument, the club’s popularity with girls convinced him to take his playing seriously.
By high school he was writing music and earning money playing in clubs and restaurants. He had an offer to study at the Boston Conservatory of Music, when tragedy struck. He came down with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a viral neurological infection that left him partially paralyzed, now assisted with a carbon fiber prosthesis. Luckily, after much pain, fear and suffering, he recovered.
“It turned out to be a great thing for me,” he says. “It taught me to appreciate every day.”
Some of his musical accomplishments include backing musicians as a member of the house band at the old Circle Star Theater in Redwood City. He played a synthesizer version of the “Star Spangled Banner” to open Steve Wozniak’s US Festivals in the 1980s. The Lil’ Big Band, a band he started back then with sax and flute player David Ladd, still plays big events around the Bay Area.
He was one of the founders of the Steinway Society, a 25-year-old local group that helps interest students in the piano. His store plans a program to interest newcomers in how pianos work. In a talk, called “Secrets of the Piano,” they will take apart a piano and show people how they work.
Just selling a piano in the age of video games and technology doesn’t work, he says.
“Piano stores have to wake up the music community.”