Emily Runov, a 15-year-old pianist from Farmington, had her prayers answered in a way she never thought possible when a couple donated their Steinway grand piano to her through the Mundi Project. (Olga Runov)
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FARMINGTON — Grand pianos don’t fall from the sky — except in cartoons.
And they do at one Utah nonprofit that brings the gift of music around the community, according to its director.
The Mundi Project receives an average of 40 to 50 donations of quality pianos each year to its Piano Bank, which facilitates their delivery to those who would benefit from them most, said Cody Goetz, associate director of the project.
“I think it’s life-changing, to be quite honest. It’s life-changing to have an acoustic piano as part of the learning process for a student. It is significant because an electric keyboard is not the same and it never will be the same as a real, acoustic piano,” Goetz said.
When 15-year-old Emily Runov’s piano teacher suggested she contact the nonprofit to get on its list for a piano donation — her skill had outgrown the family’s upright piano, which her mom says they bought several years ago on KSL Classifieds — Emily and her mom began praying.
Olga Runov said she teaches her children to pray for specific needs in their lives. Now, they began praying for a grand piano, although they couldn’t afford one, so Emily could continue to advance in her talent. After starting to play around age 7, she now plays at an advanced level, and loves composers such as Chopin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff. She also plays for her church, and conducts and accompanies a children’s choir.
While the Runovs, of Farmington, were praying for what to them would be a miracle, Jean and Norm Provan were downsizing, leaving their home in the mountains for a townhome in the city, and trying to decide what to do with something beloved to them . They needed to move because Norm Provan had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The Provens purchased their Steinway while living in Chicago in the 1970s.
“I wouldn’t exactly call us talented musicians, but we came from families that love music and played the piano and accordion and violin, and all kinds of things,” Jean Provan said.
The rebuilt Steinway grand piano “was really way more piano than we needed, but we fell in love with it, so we bought it,” she said.
It traveled with the couple for about 50 years to their various homes. Now, their options were to store the piano — “which seems like a shame, because a piano should be played” — or to let it go to someone else.
Jean Provan’s dad was an accordion player. When he was 90 years old, he decided he needed a new accordion that would be smaller and easier to play, so he ordered an accordion from Germany. But the instrument took 1½ years to arrive, and when it arrived, he could no longer play. So he donated it to an accomplished accordionist who visited his senior residence every month to play it.
“Maybe that was the inspiration,” Provan said, for searching online for “how to donate a piano.”
“We were blessed to have had it, and the people that, I guess, the people that could afford to buy it could afford to buy a piano just on their own,” she said. “And so this whole idea of gifting it forward to someone who really could appreciate it and love it and play it, it felt right.”
Emily and her mom never would have guessed the extent to which their prayer would be answered through the Provence and the Mundi Project.
When they met for an interview with Goetz and his team, as they know each applicant for a piano, he asked her about the piano of her dreams.
“He was like, ‘So what’s one of the highest-quality grand pianos out there?’ So I was like, ‘A Steinway.’ So he was like, ‘Well, this piano is a Steinway.’ And at that point, I literally had to hold back tears of just shock and joy. So it was crazy,” Emily recalled.
Steinways are among the most expensive and revered pianos among musicians and can range in price from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When they brought it into its new home this spring, “At that point, I was like, ‘Well, this is actually real, this is actually happening,'” Emily said.
“It was better than Christmas.”
Emily said if she were to meet Jean Provan, “The first thing I’d probably do would be give her a hug and just say thank you, and just tell her that she literally made one of my biggest dreams come true.”
“Because I think from the very moment that I started to play piano, I always just loved the feeling of playing at a grand piano. And it’s just a totally different experience to be honest, and so to be gifted, absolutely free, just out of the goodness of someone’s heart is just incredible. Honestly, I’d probably start crying because it’s just so touching. It blows my mind, the fact that there are people out there that will give away Steinways,” Emily said.
Runov described the gift as a blessing in the family’s life.
“This has been an answered prayer of Emily’s and mine. This was a need that we had, and it was fulfilled in an amazing way that you can’t even, like, you feel guilty imagining that this could become true, and it has become true,” she said, expressing her gratitude to the donors.
Norm Provan passed away from cancer this summer, but his wife says being able to donate the piano brought them joy.
“I was thrilled. They sent me a video of her just talking about it and playing it. Someone like her should have this piano. She’s a talented musician, and it needs to be played, so I was thrilled,” she said. This was perfect, and it gave us a lot of happiness to know that this family was getting this piano.”
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