The Baum Opera House in Miamisburg has had a long and varied past, and with the facility’s board of trustees is looking to the future the donation of a beautiful Young Chang Grand player piano is a step in that direction.
Baum Opera House Association Board President-elect Sarah Bucher, the owner of Bella Musica Lesson Studio in Miamisburg, heard that Steve Hicks, owner of A-1 Piano Movers, had a piano for sale. “I thought I’d purchase it to donate to the Opera House since part of our mission it to serve as a base for the arts in Miamisburg,” Bucher said. “I thought a good way to start encouraging cultural activities is to have a good piano available in the facility. It certainly is a fundamental instrument that was badly needed.”
The piano is housed in the Ransdell Ballroom, and the enormous task of getting the large instrument upstairs was donated by A-1 Piano and Organ Movers, a local family-owned business that’s been around since 1955. Bucher said, “Getting that piano up to the second floor was a huge effort, and we’re so thankful to Steve for donating that.”
Once the piano was in its place, it needed to be tuned, and Hohman Piano Services donated that and all future maintenance.
Hohman Piano Services is based in Springboro. Owner Jennifer Hohman is a registered piano technician whose client list includes the University of Dayton, Victoria Theater and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.
Built in 1884 by Charles Baum, a German immigrant who settled in Miamisburg, the Baum Opera House, located at 15 S. First St., played a significant role in the social and cultural life of the city and area, hosting many famed entertainers of the time. Over the decades, the facility has housed a bowling alley, a skating rink, a nightclub and a dinner theater. The years have taken their toll on the place and the board hopes to raise funds to make much needed repairs and to make it handicap accessible. These days the facility is the site of many weddings. “Weddings and receptions are definitely our bread and butter. They help keep the lights on,” said Bronwyn Peck, executive director.
The new piano made its inaugural performance in October at the Bella Musica Trick or Treat ’n Tunes recital. The recital had 38 students perform on a variety of instruments while dressed in costumes. Bucher says she will continue using the Baum Opera House for her school’s recitals. Bella Musica is located at 2240 E. Central Ave. in Miamisburg.
Bucher says the newly donated piano will make the Baum Opera House an ideal venue for businesses and music teachers from Miamisburg and surrounding areas to host recitals, concerts and other musical productions. Plus, the piano has a built-in player system to provide music without a musician for patrons who rent the facility for other occasions like reunions, wedding receptions and parties. The Baum Opera House is hoping to partner with the Miamisburg Historical Society on several efforts including renovations and uses. “And we can always use volunteers,” said Peck.
Some of the Baum’s history includes a local dance band called The Decades, which got its start at the historical facility in the 1960s. The Towpath Dinner Theatre, the first of its kind in the area, enjoyed a brief stint in the mid-1970s. And it was downhill from there on, Peck said: “The last bar closed in 1992, and pigeons took over the building.” With no buyer in sight, the last resort was a sheriff’s sale and if that failed, the wrecking ball was looming.
The historic building was sold in 1994 at a sheriff’s sale to the Baum Opera House Association. Restoration began in 1994, but, as is the case with many historic buildings, money is the primary issue. “We’re looking for ways to raise money, because restoring and enhancing the Baum is important to downtown Miamisburg,” said Bucher. “We’re always looking for new uses for the Baum that are compatible to our history and the downtown area. We’re hoping to host community theater, concerts, art exhibits and more.”
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