PianoForte Chicago was started with the idea of promoting and making available the line of Fazioli pianos to the discerning public but quickly grew into a piano store with a wide range of instruments and piano-related services including accessories, recording, rentals, student performances, and lessons. Since its inception, PianoForte has evolved into a specialized piano boutique with a focus on selecting fine instruments at various price levels.
“Helping People Love the Piano”
As part of the selection process, PianoForte has chosen to represent selected few piano manufacturers which reflect our philosophy of quality and ethics. These include Fazioli, Yamaha, Grotrian, Mason & Hamlin, Schimmel and Feurich acoustic pianos, and Yamaha digital pianos. Through these manufacturers, pianos are made available across all price points seen in the market today.
At the same time, PianoForte has developed a line-up of pre-owned pianos to sell in order to widen the offering and touch/sound possibilities including pianos by Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Bechstein, Baldwin, and other high quality brands. The showrooms provide a unique setting to allow piano lovers to take their time and explore the possibilities of one or several pianos. When coming to look at pianos, it is recommended that one makes an appointment to ensure the best conditions to try pianos and discuss options with our staff.
Passion for Pianos Gave Birth to a Crazy Idea
Sitting in my small, grey bank cubicle twelve years ago, I never dreamed I would be able to build a piano lover’s dream piano store and what I now consider to be the best specialized piano shop in Chicago. I was an idealist with a passion for pianos who had the crazy idea of wanting to show the world around me the amazing Fazioli pianos. Of course, it could never be that simple. This adventure has led me to discover other beautiful pianos, meet the interesting, passionate and sometimes famous people who love pianos and produce over 60 concerts a year, two radio programs, an amateur piano competition, and a music festival. I can tell you I never worked this hard, but I never had so much fun either.
Like any independent up against the superstores of this world, it is our selection and service that set us apart. When you are dealing with fine musical instruments, it isn’t always just the price that matters, although we will offer as good a deal as any, but the fact that you are dealing with someone who cares about your instrument and about your enjoyment of it.
When we look for instruments for our relatively small showroom, we seek out the hard to find, the particularly good deal, the exquisite sound, the even touch, the responsive action. Then we spend hours making sure they are presented in the best possible condition to facilitate your judgment and choice. In our showrooms, you will find our carefully selected inventory of pianos including Yamaha, Fazioli, Schimmel, Mason & Hamlin, Grotrian, Feurich, Yamaha and Kawai digital pianos, and various used pianos of other well-known brands.
I welcome you to explore our website, and look forward to your visit to our showrooms.
Thomas Zoells, President
Thomas Zoells – Owner/CEO
He has worked for Ingpen & Williams in London and Agence Caecilia in Geneva, where he helped promote Jessye Norman, Alicia de Larrocha and Alfred Brendel, among others. He had a 20 year career in banking along the way and likes to keep active as an amateur pianist.
Darcy Zoells – Vice President
Darcy Zoells is a co-owner of Pianoforte Chicago. She is in charge of bookkeeping, billing, promotional materials, and trying to keep Thomas sane. Darcy’s background is in the visual arts, so as far as music is concerned she is strictly an audience member.
Victor Le Jeune – Lead Engineer/Director of Photography
A native of Miami, Victor moved to Illinois in 2008 to pursue a Bachelor of Music from Northern Illinois University where he also studied Audio Engineering. With experience in a wide variety of production environments and a passion for producing exceptional media, Victor’s main objective is to ensure every project exceeds clients’ expectations.
Quinn Klarer – Assistant Engineer
Quinn Klarer has had a passion for orchestral music his entire life. After studying cello with Steve Balderston at the DePaul School of Music, Quinn began his career as an audio engineer at the renowned post-production studio, Airstream Audio. There, he has worked on an array of projects ranging from national ad campaigns too short films. As a recording engineer Quinn has worked on film scores and full-length albums at I.V. Labs, Decade Studios, and Electrical Audio. Quinn’s diverse talents and experience in music and audio ensure professional results with anything he approaches.
Matt Ponio was born and raised in the Chicago area. His education includes an Associate’s in Fine Arts from McHenry Country College, a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Northern Illinois University (NIU), and a Master’s in Recording Arts from NIU.
In addition to his work as Internet and Marketing Manager of PianoForte Matt spends much of his time as a freelance audio engineer and videographer. He also works as a piano technician for Northern Illinois University and many private clients.
Liz Stein – Sales – Pianos and Strings
Originally from Chicago, Liz has worked in the world of rare stringed instruments for nearly 20 years. In 1995, Liz moved to New York to setup the first U.S. location for Machold Rare Violins Ltd. Today, she is involved with many aspects of the trade. Working closely with musicians, collectors and business institutions, her role is quite diverse. She focuses on sales, public relations, business organizations, event planning as well as affiliations with patrons and friends of the arts. As a professionally trained violinist, Liz attended the University of Michigan on a 4-year performance scholarship, attaining a Bachelors Degree in Violin. She then continued her education and completed a Masters Degree from Northwestern University. As a professional musician, Liz possesses the ability and sensitivity needed to address the string musicians’ need in finding the right instrument.
PianoForte Foundation is dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of the piano in Chicago and creating a vibrant piano community that closely connects audiences and artists.
The foundation serves to bring excitement and appreciation for piano music to a wide audience through high-quality concerts, festivals, competitions, education, outreach, and public broadcasts.
Thomas Zoells established PianoForte Foundation in April 2005, one year after he opened PianoForte Chicago, a piano store, in the historic Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago. Shortly after the store’s opening, Thomas began organizing a concert series as a natural extension of his business, demonstrating his passion for the instrument and its repertoire. Quickly, the concert series took on a life of its own and inspired a vision of an organization that would enrich Chicago’s piano music culture, artists, and audiences alike. That vision led to the creation of PianoForte Foundation, an independent, nonprofit, separately incorporated entity. Though the two businesses share a name, the Foundation does not exist to promote the piano store, however, much support is given in-kind from the piano store to the Foundation. The Foundation currently animates its Piano Donation Program, our MeetUp Group and the much anticipated annual Schubertiade.
PianoForte’s Piano Donation Program serves schools in Chicago’s low-income communities (CPS primarily), where resources are not available to purchase a piano for the benefit of music programs. By donating gently used, refreshed pianos, the Foundation provides hundreds of students and educators the gift of music and re-purposes pianos that are no longer used. The donors can benefit from the tax write-off provided by law of their gift to PianoForte Foundation. If you are interested in donating a piano please visit http://pianofortechicago.com/partwithmypiano/ to fill out a donation application.
PianoForte has created a MeetUp group dedicated to amateur pianists interested in cultivating their performance skills. Pianists of all skill levels have the opportunity to perform quarterly in PianoForte’s beautiful performance space. All genres of music are welcome. From veteran pianists returning to performance after a long absence to newer pianists learning to shake performance anxiety, the PianoForte Meet Up is a great way for pianists of all ages and stages to share their love of music with a group of fellow aficionados.
Every year, PianoForte Foundation celebrates the music of Franz Schubert close to his birthday, on January 31st. Harkening back to Vienna in the early 19th century, The Schubertiade brings more than 60 professional musicians together with an eager audience to 1335 S. Michigan Avenue for a full day of Schubert on two stages. A great variety of songs, chamber music and piano can be heard and admission is free!
Thomas Zoells, Founder and Executive Director
PianoForte Foundation, NFP
1335 South Michigan Avenue, 3rd floor
Chicago, IL 60605