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Baby grand piano finds new home at KIAC

This baby grand piano was purchased from Dawson City's Joanne Van Nostrand by KIAC. Submitted Photo.

By Amy Kenny

You could say the upright piano at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture has character. You could also say it sounds like it’s going to explode when it’s played.

“It has such a special tone that it’s kind of distracting from the performance sometimes,” says Matt Sarty, laughing. Sarty is the performing arts and festival producer at KIAC. “It’s clackity, great for honky-tonk, but the new piano will be a much fuller sound. You’ll be able to hear the nuance of the players’ performances much better.”

That’s because the new piano is a Yamaha C1 baby grand—an instrument known for its rich tonality and range. It will make the move to KIAC this spring from a home in Dawson City, where it was purchased for KIAC with the help of funding from Duncan Sinclair, Jazz Yukon, Whitehorse Concerts and the Yukon Arts Centre.

The purchase was also helped by the piano’s former owner, Joanne Van Nostrand, who used to own the Downtown Hotel in Dawson. Van Nostrand, a longtime supporter of KIAC, whose three children are all musical (one of her daughters taught piano at KIAC), gave KIAC a discount on the price.

“I wanted to still be able to enjoy it and see it,” says Van Nostrand over the phone from Dawson. “It just meant so much to me.”

Van Nostrand was raised on the guitar, but took up piano at the age of 30. Immediately, she wanted a grand. Hers was a 40th birthday gift from her husband in 1998, though Van Nostrand almost ruined her own surprise.

She remembers that when she spotted an ad in the Klondike Sun, offering free shipping on pianos for Dawsonites, she called the B.C.-based shop that had placed the ad. She didn’t realize it had been placed to reduce freight fees for her husband, who had already bought her one.  

“I kept getting the funniest response. No one wanted to talk to me,” she says. “After the third attempt I asked for the manager and they called my husband and said ‘what do you want us to do? She keeps trying to buy a piano!’”

The company also remembered that story in 2020, when she contacted them to have the Yamaha appraised in advance of her move to a smaller home—one that just doesn’t have space for a baby grand.

Sarty says the piano will be available for lessons at KIAC and for residents who want to come in and pay by the hour to play it. He says it will also be used for performances at KIAC.

“I’m grateful we’re going to be able to provide a more professional experience for people checking out shows by making this caliber of instrument available,” he says.

Casey Prescott, chief executive officer of YAC, agrees.

“This instrument will be a great opportunity for all presenters in the area and will help immeasurably with securing a wider variety of touring artists – especially classical musicians – to Dawson City,” says Prescott. “We view this purchase as a key investment in increasing the capacity of the Yukon touring network.”

Sarty says KIAC is still accepting fundraising donations. They can be made by visiting, or by calling KIAC.