When Dylan Sanzenbacher was 10 years old, he asked for a keyboard for his birthday. Shortly after receiving it that June, his mother Maureen Sanzenbacher
noticed her son watching YouTube videos of people playing the piano, then running through their Warren home out to the Florida room, where his keyboard was set up, and playing the song note for note.
“That year there was a talent show at school and Dylan said he wanted to play Für Elise,” Maureen recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow, okay,’ and then after the show everyone was so shocked and wanted to know where he took piano lessons.”
Maureen and her husband soon enrolled Dylan in piano lessons at a local guitar shop, since it was close to home, and his talent grew. Less than a year later, She and Dylan were driving past a hotel and noticed a sign that read “Piano Sale.”
Dylan begged Maureen to stop so they could take a look. That life-changing day was when the Sanzenbacher family met Thomas Solich, owner of Solich Piano. With three locations — Woodmere, Boardman and Columbus — the company has made music education and spreading the gift of learning to play the piano its mission.
The benefits of music education in childhood have been proven time and time again. According to National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, children who study music achieve larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills, higher standardized test scores, and higher attendance rates, among other things.
Solich describes himself as primarily a music educator and a pianist, and then a retailer. “I’m an advocate of music education, I’m a performer, and yes, I happen to be a piano retailer.”
“We see such a correlation between music and math, music and medicine, music and the STEM fields,” he says. “Music truly helps at every stage, from when a child is developing in the womb, after being born, and all the way up through adult life. Music develops all sorts of different parts of the brain.
“I think that we’re doing our children a huge disservice if we don’t give them structured music in the same way we give them math or reading or science,” Solich adds.
That day at the piano sale, Solich, who has been blind since birth, heard Dylan playing Für Elise on one of the models on display. He asked the salesman to bring him over to Dylan, Maureen recalls, adding, “By the time we were done, Thomas said that if I buy this child a piano and give him some good lessons, he could almost guarantee some type of a music scholarship in college. My husband came down there, and we bought Dylan his baby grand piano that day.”
After a couple of years taking lessons with Solich, and then with a professor from Baldwin Wallace University, Dylan did receive a music scholarship and is now a sophomore music education student at Baldwin Wallace University’s Conservatory of Music.
“I do believe that children who are involved in music think differently,” Maureen says. “Practically every kid who was in high school band with Dylan was just wonderful. They talked differently; they acted differently; they were more mature. There’s something about music that is really good for these young people.”
Dylan says he would like to become either a music educator for middle or high school band students, or continue his music education with a graduate degree in conducting, or music history and literature.
“Throughout my life, music has added joy and happiness and friendship and love, and it serves as a way to be connected with other people and also be myself, to express myself,” he says, “It’s amazing, what music and piano have done for me, and I know that happens with a lot of people. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know who else I would be.”
Piano as a Foundation
While music in general offers benefits for children, piano in particular is a good place to begin, according to Solich.
“A lot of students who major in music, when they get to their first semester of college, they are often surprised and somewhat shocked to find out that regardless of what type of instrument they play — if they’re a voice major or a saxophone or a drum major — that all universities and conservatories nationwide require them to have a rudimentary knowledge of piano in order to study.”
He explains that piano is an orchestral instrument, meaning it’s the only instrument that can be played without having other instruments join in, where it can virtually be the orchestra because of the use of the player’s 10 fingers.
“Because of that, the piano is the primary instrument as a teaching tool,” Solich explains. “That’s why, no matter if kids want to play in their school band someday, or if they want to sing in a choir, piano is an absolute must. It is the essential first step in being introduced to music and falling in love with music, no matter the age.”
He continues, “Once you learn piano, you can take that knowledge and it’s so much easier to learn any other instrument in the world because you’re learning everything: the melody, the harmony, the rhythms. Piano students learn musical coordination and the ability to multitask.”
Even in today’s high-tech society, where teachers and parents compete with the distraction of screens, pianos are still relevant.
Solich explains that the piano industry has evolved just as schools, where educators are “taking the technology that is now available, and instead of allowing it to be a distraction or a crutch, we’re allowing it to be an aid in learning.”
He adds that Solich Piano has embraced technology that is now aiding the learning process. “Instead of telling little Johnny to turn off the iPad because we’re in a piano lesson, Yamaha has designed numerous apps to be able to help him, even as a young child, and to assist mom and dad in helping him learn during the week and do his musical homework. The iPad is now integrated wirelessly with the piano so that families buy a modern piano to learn on, and it’s still an amazing instrument, but it has apps that work with it.”
Kids are getting screen time while they’re learning music, forming a way to “bridge this gap of antiquity,” Solich notes.
When — and How — to Begin
Not all children have the natural talent that Dylan did, and not all families end up introducing music to their children by chance, as in the case of the Sanzenbachers. When it comes to introducing your child to music, there’s never an age that is considered “too early.”
“My belief is that parents need to start exposing their children to piano music even before they’re born,” says Solich, whose 18-month-old son already enjoys “making music” on the piano in the living room. “As a child reaches the age of 1 or 2 years old, I recommend that parents enroll them in music exploration programs like Kindermusik, Music for Young Children, or Musical Moments.”
He stresses that it’s “never too late to learn, and it’s always better late than never.”
Solich also advises parents not to give up if their child doesn’t immediately show a musical talent.
“There is something about talent and natural ability, but I also think we should give everyone that education, regardless of their level of a natural aptitude or talent,” he explains. “We don’t say, ‘My son’s really talented at math, so he has to learn geometry,’ or ‘My son is really talented at science, so we’re going to study the periodic table.’
“I started playing the piano when I was 5, and I didn’t just sit down and play Bach or Beethoven the first time,” Solich continues. “I had to work at it, but I’m so thrilled that my parents encouraged me to continue, the same as they gave me the opportunity to continue all the other subjects in school.”
“Even as an adult, if you want to learn — even if you’ve never touched an instrument before — go ahead and do it,” Dylan says. “What can it hurt? It’s only going to broaden your mental thinking and your emotions. If you have any sort of interest in music at all, it’s a wonderful idea to start lessons or pick up an instrument.”
Solich Piano opened its Cleveland-area flagship showroom earlier this year. Located at 27730 Chagrin Blvd., the showroom features a display of more than 50 pianos and keyboards. Phase two of the renovation, starting this summer, will incorporate an intimate recital area with 75 seats in the center of the store for high-quality concerts, student recitals and master classes by a wide variety of musicians. The facility will also offer group and private lessons for all ages and levels.
“Parents have two objectives: they’ve got to find where to study; and they’ve got to have a quality instrument,” Solich says. “All they have to do is call us.”
He adds that the Solich staff can help match parents with not only the right instrument (if they’re piano shopping), but also the right music instructor – throughout the greater Cleveland/Akron area – to fit the type of lessons desired and match the goals that parents have for their child.