Pianos are more than just instruments or pieces of furniture. They’re often passed down through the generations and are played by many different people. That’s why Rhiannon Llewellyn, 31, an opera singer and piano teacher, says her baby grand piano is the best thing she’s ever saved for. “An instrument is an incredible thing,” she says. “It feels like you give it a part of your soul to carry when you play it.”
Llewellyn is a singer first and foremost, but she’s been playing piano since she was a teenager, when she would do hours of practice after school. “I still think about my first piano because we sort of grew up together,” she says.
After moving to London with her husband, Llewellyn decided to start saving for her first ‘grown up’ piano. She aimed to save £3,000 by putting around £100 a month aside over three years. When she had enough money put away, she started scouring online for secondhand instruments.
“I was looking for someone who had a piano they loved and who wanted it to go to a good home, like a pet dog or something,” she says. Then she found the perfect one. It had belonged to an older woman, named Eliza, who had passed away and her daughter wanted it to go to the right place.
“I loved this little old piano”, Llewellyn says. “Eliza had played for a church and had looked after the piano for most of its life.” Grand pianos are large and difficult to move. “So I think it must have sat in the same place in her house and they’d had parties around it,” says Llewellyn. “You go to the piano when you’re at your saddest times and also during your happiest times, when you’re having a singsong together.”
For this reason, a piano is like an extension of your personality, Llewellyn says. And to honour its history she has named hers after its original owner. “I like to think Eliza would approve of the piano’s new home,” she says.
In the second chapter of its life, Eliza the piano is inspiring a new generation of pianists. Llewellyn has more than 20 students, ranging from aged four to 67. “When the new piano came it was like a show and tell,” she says. “I’d lift up the lid to show people the hammer inside and everyone loved it.”
Llewellyn’s own son, who is just 18 months old, also likes the piano - she believes - as he’s often making a beeline for it. “He can’t say ‘mum’ yet, but I think I’ve almost taught him to how to find middle C,” she says.
Llewellyn is an avid saver and says she puts money away to save for different things, from emergencies, to professional development courses. She says saving makes her feel more in control of her money. “It’s so incredibly liberating,” she says.
“By having a clear goal when you start saving you are much more likely to be successful”
Saving for something can be empowering and make you feel better, as well as being good for your financial health.
Jill Waters, retail director at NS&I, says “By having a clear goal when you start saving you are much more likely to be successful; Llewellyn’s passion for her piano made the difference for her. Setting yourself a specific target for saving will help create memories for you, your family and friends, whether it be a dream holiday, milestone birthday or treating yourself to the little things in life. You can start with just a small amount each month and gradually increase as you adjust your regular outgoings, and before you know it you’ve achieved your dream.”
“People think you have to be saving huge amounts each month,” says Llewellyn. But she has found that just putting a small amount aside during quieter months helps in the long run. “I think it’s a lifestyle that’s not really promoted because we don’t talk about money enough, and that makes people poorer and more stressed,” she says.
Overall, saving for her grand piano was well worth the time and effort, Llewellyn says. Since having it, she plays for pleasure more than she has ever done. But still, her next savings goal is to upgrade it. “One day I would like a Steinway,” she says. At which point her beloved baby grand piano will be passed on to its next owner, taking a part of Llewellyn’s soul along with it.
*This was originally published in The Guardian on 11 February 2020.