The Period Piano Center began as a idea of Bill Shull in 2005. Combining his passion for historical performance, piano technology history, the collection of historical pianos and teaching, he began to organize “Period Piano” in 2005, exhibiting at his shop, which was then in San Bernardino, CA. He established a permanent website for Period Piano Center by 2008 and obtained non-profit corporation status with the State of California in 2009. He dedicated space in his piano restoration shop and retail space in Loma Linda, California to exhibit the collection, from 2007 to 2015 the exhibit was about 600 square feet. Beginning in 2015 the exhibit expanded to 1,000 of space at a the new Redlands location. Exhibiting also took place at conventions and conferences for the Piano Technicians Guild all over the United States, frequently corresponding with classes taught by Mr. Shull. Also in 2009 a small exhibit was established in the Lowell, Massachussetts shop of then Vice-President Larry Buck of several pianos. Period Piano Center became a 501(c)3 organization in 2014. It began to sponsor regular historically informed performances on antique instruments in 2015, including an ongoing collaboration with the Department of Music at La Sierra University. Selected pianos from the collection have been exhibited since 2005, with an emphasis on the antique Steinway, of which Mr. Shull is an expert. In 2019 “The 19th Century Piano in the Home” Exhibit was opened.
Documentation of historical pianos through photographic and other means was a collaborative passion with his Period Piano colleagues Larry Buck and David Rubenstein. Mr. Buck’s photographic and technical expertise led Mr. Shull and Mr. Buck to several documentation projects on both U.S. coasts as well as a trip to Belgium to document the earliest full-plate prototype Steinway piano in 2007. Mr. Rubenstein has contributed with his auto-cad and technical drawing skills.
The steady donations of pianos since the first donations in 2006 has increased the collection to approximately 80 instruments by 2019. The collection currently represents the goal of representing historical instruments of all periods and representative types, including transitional-modern pianos which have been neglected by most museums, but whose study is most important to understand the transitional designs of the mid- and late- 19th century.
In addition to a balanced collection is the use of select instruments for period performance. In 2015 a commitment to period performance was begun with Frank French’s Gottschalk concert on an 1858 Chickering concert grand at the Ontario California PTG WESTPAC (below), and William Shull’s performance of French parlor songs on an Erard vertical at the PTG Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado. See Past Programs and Upcoming Programs for a more complete history of Period Piano concerts and upcoming events.