LITCHFIELD — Joe DiBlasi’s life centers around pianos and music.
When Robert Kwalick, executive director of the Bantam Cinema and Arts Center, started checking out DiBlasi’s inventory at Litchfield Piano Works and asking questions, DiBlasi said he’d help find a good one.
He took that promise a step further this week when he donated an upright Samick piano and a Yamaha Clavinova digital keyboard to the newly established arts center, which now is a nonprofit movie theater and arts venue.
“The Bantam Cinema reached out to me to look at pianos, because they had several donation offers,” DiBlasi said. “But (the pianos) I saw were shot — they were neglected. Unfortunately, pianos that sit for a long time deteriorate, and they take a lot of work to get them back to where they should be.”
DiBlasi also owns Litchfield Music Center, which recently hired a sixth faculty member to teach piano and guitar to a growing group of students, and an inventory of guitars and supplies for new musicians. That, along with voice lessons, recording sessions and lessons on brass and reed instruments that are offered, has grown the school “tremendously,” he said.
DiBlasi is a talented pianist and a tuner for churches and theaters around the Northwest Corner, including the Warner Theatre. He services and sells pianos, while operating the music school with a faculty of musicians.
Being part of the music scene in Litchfield is exciting, he said. He realized the Bantam Cinema is part of that scene, and decided he wanted to help.
“They’re just getting started, and they are trying really hard,” he said. “So I did a complete service on one that I had that I was going to sell, the Samick. I said, ‘Let me just give you this one.’ It’s trouble-free and ready to play. It’s perfect for what they’re looking for.”
Then, he decided to donate a second instrument, the Yamaha keyboard. “I got it from a guy in Roxbury — I was there for a service call on a Steinway, and the customer said he was getting rid of it.”
The digital keyboard can mimic a variety of instruments — piano, harpsichord, digital — and is perfect “in a pinch,” DiBlasi said.
“It’s ready to play, just turn it on. It’s perfect for an event at the cinema.”
He estimated the Samick piano and Yamaha keyboard’ at about $4,000 each. “That’s on the high end, but they can be expensive,” he said. “It’s worth putting them in a place like this. They’ll be well used.”
The Bantam Cinema screened the new “West Side Story” this week, and is showing “Nightmare Alley” through December, as well as a live performance Dec. 12, “Music Lessons,” a one-man show by local playwright Ed Napier, with pianist Bill Lewis. That show is a benefit for the arts center.
“The pianos being donated puts us in the position of being an arts center, to have live music and live musical theater,” Kwalicki said. “Joe is an angel, and we’re so grateful. Both the pianos are such a great gift for us.”
For information about the cinema, visit bantamcinema.org or call 860-361-6066.