Learning to tune pianos was initially overwhelming, but Marta Hansen was quite determined. In the midst of her determination, she fell in love with it and became very passionate about pianos. The Piano Gal Shop combines that passion with piano tuning, unique upcycled locally-made music-themed products, retail sales and lessons.
The piano tuning began as a hobby when Hansen wanted to tune her own piano; she has been playing since she was 7. Musical inclinations run in her family with an amateur musician father, an opera singer aunt and a cruise ship headliner cousin. Her mother and music teachers also encouraged and inspired her love of music. In elementary school, she already knew she was going to be a music teacher when she grew up.
Hansen taught middle school choir and elementary general music in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Seven years ago, after her first son was born, she left teaching and began giving private voice and piano lessons. A couple of years later, she and her husband, Creed, returned to Wisconsin. Piano tuning became her focus and she stopped taking new students. “Piano tuning is a huge part of what The Piano Gal Shop is; going out and servicing pianos for tuning and repair, and regulation and such,” Hansen said.
“And then, through the tuning, I started accumulating parts of pianos,” she continued. “Being that I know the ins and outs of pianos so well and I’ve always been a very creative person — I just love creating — I got the idea to start utilizing those parts to make things that were pretty and upcycle them.” Hansen used Etsy to sell her creations of jewelry and home décor made from piano parts. Using her one-car garage as a workshop worked well until her projects included using the whole piano shell to create a desk.
Hansen began looking to rent a workshop space after a heart-to-heart with her husband. Recognizing a need in Sun Prairie and on the east side of Madison, she decided to open a full-service music store. Along with the upcycled art and piano tuning and repair, The Piano Gal Shop offers new and used pianos, used musical instruments, a rent-to-own program for band and orchestra, sheet music and music books, and accessories and supplies for piano, voice, guitar, band and orchestra. Customers can special order items that are not stocked in the store.
Hansen can custom design an upcycled piece of furniture or art from a customer’s unused musical item. She works with customers to design a piece that fits their wants and needs.
A lot of the upcycled art in her store is made by Hansen, but she also sells locally-made music-themed art on consignment. The items include decor pieces and ornaments made from piano hammers, wall art from old sheet music, tables made from a cello, clocks and wall art created from vinyl records, a breakfast bar, desk, bench, and wine bar made from pianos, and jewelry made from brass piano wire.
Music lessons are offered at The Piano Gal. Lyle Raymond teaches guitar, bass and banjo; and Clarisse Tobia teaches voice, composition and piano. Hansen recommends age 7 for starting instrumental lessons because of the size of a child’s hands and the ability to focus for 30 minutes. And, age 9 or 10 is an appropriate age recommended for voice lessons.
Giving back to the community is important to Hansen. She has donated goods and services for fundraisers, sings at events, and has a colorful street piano she takes out for sing-alongs. The Piano Gal has also donated a brand new piano, and lifetime free tuning, to UW Health at The American Center.
“I wanted to do the music store thing, but in a very creative way,” explained Hansen, “I think I’m accomplishing that, I love coming to work!”