NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – From Billy Joel to Sergei Rachmaninoff, pianists around the world have come to rely on Steinway pianos.

Their Queens factory just fully reopened after shutting down for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Music is in the making again at Steinway & Sons piano factory in Astoria.

“This is my house. These are all my babies,” said Gwendolyn Folk. For her, it’s her passion – putting weights in the keys to make them lighter and easier to play. It’s a job she’s had there for 26 years.

“Sometimes it can take three large, sometimes it can take four,” she said of the weights. “It’s up to the keys. It’s not up to me. I do what it tells me to do. We have a conversation.”

Those conversations were on hold through the last four months. The factory had to closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but now more than 200 artisans and others are back to work.


“We’re at full production, as we were before we had to shut down in March, and it’s really gratifying and wonderful to see this,” said CEO Ron Losby.

It’s also wonderful when you consider the history of Steinway. German immigrant Henry E. Steinway started the company in Manhattan in 1853. They opened the Astoria factory 150 years ago. The company survived the 1918 Spanish flu, two world wars, the Great Depression and now the coronavirus.

Losby says while business is down, surprisingly, they did sell some pianos the last few months.

“They say, I want something I can have in my home where I can control the environment, where I don’t expose my family to a lot of other people and that is valuable and worthwhile and fulfilling,” Losby said.

The personal touch is Steinway’s trademark. All pianos are hand-crafted, with no two exactly the same.

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Pianos that are nearly done have to sit, adjusting to being tuned. Since Steinways are not mass produced, it takes roughly 11 months to complete each piano, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.

Despite the factory shut down, they still plan to make their normal average of 1,200 this year, continuing their streak of world-famous musicians like Cole Porter and Billy Joel relying on their detailed work.

“The feeling I get, oh my god, yeah, it’s amazing,” Folk said.

For Grymes, it was cool to play a Steinway at the Steinway factory on Steinway Place.

A Steinway baby grand starts at $75,000. The Steinway & Sons Factory used to do public tours, before the pandemic. They hope to bring them back, maybe next year.


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