SOUND SURVEY: Darryl Fabiani, Music Lover, Craftsman, Businessman

Renée Silberman - - Music & Food
The London Yodeller

RENEE Darryl Fabiani“Darryl also initiated the “88 Keys” program, through which he reconditions donated pianos and then offers them to students who need an instrument”

Darryl Fabiani projects vigour, energy, and purpose. He radiates joie de vivre. A man whose personality – that of a gentle giant – would be welcome in any circle, as a friend or professional colleague. There appears to be a mix of qualities, the active and the contemplative, combined in a single being, a very complete sort of person.

Why begin with such a glowing statement about a nice guy who runs a business on the west side of London? We should let the facts speak for themselves before affixing descriptive encomia.

Darryl left Niagara Falls for London in 1997, to enrol in Western’s music faculty as a piano and percussion major. That was not enough. He joined the Mustangs as a linebacker. He completed a Bachelor’s degree, and then became a certified piano technician in a newly created program within the Faculty. He moved to Toronto where he enjoyed parallel careers as a piano technician and as a member of the Toronto Argonauts. This is where the evidence of vitality really begins to manifest itself in his adult life.

While working at The Remenyi House of Music, Darryl started to examine the big picture – he bought a truck in order to add moving to his list of piano-related activity, beyond tuning and setting up. In 2002, he made the Toronto-London run a regular part of his work life. By 2005, Darryl found he had enough employment in London to make a full-time move here seem the reasonable thing to do. Darryl had known Steve Grega, tuner-technician par excellence, since 2001 – from his student days; together, the two men decided to join forces in building a business. Steve was a great resource – he brought knowledge, golden hands in the art of restoration and maintenance of pianos, and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to the endeavour.

Did Darryl have a business plan when he set out on his journey? Perhaps not a thing of the classic type MBA students are expected to develop during the theoretical stage of their program. Fabiani went with his instinct, with his ambition for self-employment, with his love of playing the piano. The details emerged with experience, a blend of creative force coupled with some genuine understanding of the dynamics of the local music scene.

First and foremost, Darryl saw himself as a risk-taker. What he knew about business, he knew from observation, first at Remenyi’s, then in the venture he ran with Steve. With Steve’s encouragement, the two looked into the possibility of becoming the official retailer of Yamaha pianos in Southwestern Ontario. This was a brilliant stroke, obvious in its elegance, amazing that no such arrangement was in place prior to the D & S development of the idea. Steve and Darryl knew the merits of Yamaha instruments from extensive work with them, from the pianos’ popularity among artists, teachers, and students. Yamaha Canada seized the suggestion, so that now D & S represents the company in a territory extending from Windsor to Kitchener, as well as the Niagara region.

At the beginning of the relationship with Yamaha in 2007, D & S acquired about a dozen pianos. These instruments looked handsome in the showroom of 2000 square feet D & S currently occupies. The shop is now full, with about three dozen acoustic pianos, ranging in size from uprights to concert grands. The space is crammed not only with traditional instruments, but with portable electric keyboards, with a variety of larger digital pianos. There are “hybrid” pianos with silencers, perfect for apartment-dwelling night people (Fabiani now makes use at home of a “hybrid” while his young children sleep). And there are guitars and percussion instruments as well.

The early years were more than an apprenticeship for Darryl. His vision for the company came into increasingly sharp focus. Fabiani never lost sight of his original passion for sharing music. He wants music to be accessible – the way sports are. The shop as it is today reserves space for lessons. But even this is not enough for the sweep of Darryl’s concepts. He wants to “keep growing,” and by this he means the business should expand in space and offerings of instruments, lessons, and performance opportunities, along with full service care for instruments. He purchased 1.1 acres on Hyde Park Road, just north of Gainsborough in anticipation of fulfilling his dream. Fabiani has been working with architect John Nicholson – his hope is that the city authorities will recognize the virtue of small business development where the value of the enterprise is an uncommon one – to provide a place for artistic labor, for a slightly exotic blend of commercial activities. Darryl would like the city to look with favour, to provide some incentive, for bringing employment activity with an emphasis on education to the neighbourhood. The plan Fabiani sees in his mind’s eye contains a large showroom, with workshop space as well. A performance space, with seating capacity of 60-100, would be a major attraction for programs of all kinds, to serve the music community in general, and to be a local resource in particular.

Fabiani has cultivated extensive links to the music community. D & S supplies instruments far and wide in the province, for concerts in Stratford, for entertainments at wineries, for professional and amateur events. In London, Darryl has built a very special connection to Aeolian Hall, where he is a member of the Board; he has an especially fond attachment to El Sistema, a program that offers free tuition to children who want to play but cannot afford the cost of lessons. This program, operated under the aegis of Clark Bryan at Aeolian Hall, falls directly into the mandate Darryl has set for himself “to support education!” Darryl also initiated the “88 Keys” program, through which he reconditions donated pianos and then offers them to students who need an instrument. So far, he has made sure that about 30 young people have received pianos – and there are more to come.

Darryl Fabiani now assumes responsibility for the economic risks associated with running a business. In the shop, Darryl and Steve Grega function as brothers. They are joined by Laura Mercey-Bilotta, a technician studying her craft with Steve. Denise Jung, well-known to piano junkies in town, an excellent musician, keeps the office in good working order.

Darryl Fabiani has seen a loosely formulated dream become reality, through the application of elbow grease and imagination. The spark he carries within himself is a spark of life itself. The business he established, with Steve Grega, has surely stimulated the economy while bringing that most intangible pleasure, music, to the homes and concert halls of London.

Visit D&S Pianos at 1700 Hyde Park Road, Unit 7. Phone 519-641-4343

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