Podcast: More to Building Haverhill-Based Mason & Hamlin Pianos Than Meets the Ear

Nathan Mabanglo-Burgett, creative director at Haverhill-based Mason & Hamlin Piano Co. (WHAV News photograph.)

The next time you have a chance to hear someone play the piano, just remember that instrument had its beginnings years earlier in a factory that could put it all together, piece by piece. It comes as a surprise to many people that such a place exists in Haverhill—the Mason & Hamlin Piano Co.

The company’s creative director, Nathan Mabanglo-Burgett, whose family owns the on Duncan Street business, was a recent guest on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” program

“Yeah, we are kind of a hidden gem in Haverhill—not many people know that there is a piano factory located in Haverhill. We started in 1854 in Boston, Massachusetts, had a couple of different homes, but in 1980 we relocated to Haverhill, Massachusetts.”

When it comes to making a piano, he says many steps must be taken.

“One part is woodworking. Other parts are you need to be able to make a plate, you need people to press a lot of different parts of the piano into different forms. There’s a lot that goes into the piano making process, and it takes over one year to make one piano,” he explains.

And then to make it look as good as it sounds

“We do all the finishing in Haverhill. We have a whole floor dedicated to polishing, spraying, sanding the finishes”

Inside the piano are the strings, that Mabanglo-Burgett says are purchased from the Mapes Piano String Company in Elizabethton, Tenn. To make those strings “sing” they are struck by a hammer, covered with felt.

It’s quite interesting. They take a long roll of felt and they need to condense down to the size of those inch, or two inch, hammers that strike the strings, and that really controls the tone of the piano, in many ways. We don’t make them in Haverhill. There are many specialties, that one, I forget the exact name of the company, but we have a specialty blend, a special recipe for our hammers. A lot of R & D went into making them, a special order just for making Hamlin pianos.”

And talking about research and development, Mason & Hamlin Pianos are created first in the mind of a designer.

“There aren’t many piano designers left in the world but our piano designer has been with the company for over 40 years. His name is Bruce Clark. He’s very skilled and he really understood what Mason Hamlin pianos were in the 1920s and took all of those features and started incorporating into every single piano we have.”

With the amount of thought, time and craftsmanship going into each piano, Mabanglo-Burgett says pricing can vary widely.

“Usually pianos are kind of broken into three different categories. One is more in the beginner area, that might be around $10,000-$20,000; then you kind of a mid-grade between $20,000 and$60,000; and then you have the premier pianos of the world, and that ranges from $80,000 to $200,000 depending on the piano maker. Our pianos range in that premier piano area.”

Mabanglo-Burgett says tours of the Mason & Hamlin Piano Company on Duncan Street in Haverhill are available, and information may be found at MasonHamlin.com.

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, iHeart, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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