Warren Shadd, CEO and founder of Shadd Pianos, grew up around a family of musicians. He started breaking pianos apart and building them back up as a hobby when he was just 12-years old. Now, he makes world-class pianos and is considered to be the first ever African-American piano manufacturer!
An early start
Shadd was exposed to the music world since birth. His grandmother was a ragtime pianist in the South in the 1930s. His grandfather invented the collapsible drum set, but unfortunately haven’t patented it. His father was one of the top piano technicians in the country. His aunt, Grammy-award winner Shirley Horn, was the NEA Jazz Master pianist and vocalist. At the age of 4, Shadd already started appearing in concert stages to perform.
With his vast background in music, it wasn’t a surprise that he really loved music. His interest was just initially for the drums. Although he knew a lot about pianos because his father would take him with him whenever he did piano repair jobs, he didn’t aspire to be like his father. Until he started rebuilding and restoring pianos just for fun while also performing with different acts and Broadway shows.
Taking the family business to the next level
When his father passed away in 1993, he had to take over the business of tuning, rebuilding, and restoring piano business. With a strong client base, the business kept flourishing even under his new leadership. But when the industry changed a bit, he knew he had to offer something new. That was when he began experimenting and creating his own piano.
Combining his own musical talent and his knowledge in modern technology, Shadd has invented a one-of-a-kind piano design. And he has patents on all of it.
“Being a musician, I have an advantage of understanding what musicians want and what they want to hear,” he told NPR. “If I can compare here — Mr. Steinway doesn’t play piano, Yamaha no, Kawai no, Bosendorfer no, Fazioli a little bit… They are engineers and businessmen; I’m a musician and an engineer and businessman. I have somewhat of a musical advantage. What I’m crafting is a musical instrument and all those different components that go into that, especially the musical parts.”
Shadd boasts of a piano that has a durable soundboard that produces loud sounds without distortion. It also has an audio system that lets the pianist hear himself play, resulting to a better output. The interactive piano also has a computer and touchscreen monitors that allows piano teachers teach piano students even if they’re away. It is also useful for bands to cut tracks live and in real time. It also features a piano bench that has surround sound, making the pianist feel — not just hear — the music.
Shadd Pianos have even caught the attention of several famous musicians and performers. He admitted that it wasn’t easy at first to make others believe that the piano he invented was exceptional. But once they played it, they became overwhelmed. In fact, Shadd Pianos are now being used in several hotels, churches, and shows around the world including the set of American Idol, Rolls Royce showrooms, and even the Vatican.
“I do know there’s a responsibility with this, to make the best piano — not one of the best — the best piano, period, in the world, and that’s what I believe I’ve done. As a people, we can’t be parallel; we’ve got to be three times as good. I’m a perfectionist, so every nuance that goes into this piano has to be the very best.”
For more information about Shadd Pianos, visit www.shaddpianos.com