Credit: Peter Patau

Timothy and Renee Farley, , Farley's House of Pianos

Timothy and Renee Farley have four kids. That's not counting the pianos.

"It's like pushing a bird out of the nest," says Timothy of finishing up work on a piano. "We don't like to see them immediately go."

That's why the two give a special farewell to some of the instruments that leave their shop, Farley's House of Pianos (6522 Seybold Rd.). They present concerts by internationally known musicians like Daniel del Pino and Valentina Lisitsa, who play the beautiful pianos Timothy can spend years restoring.

"We don't do it for the money," says Timothy, 67, of hosting the events.

Says Renee, 66, "It's for the love of the piano."

Concerts aren't the only way the Farleys cultivate the love of the piano. They also host music lessons in their shop, a former pharmaceutical warehouse near West Towne Mall. They move pianos and store them. They sell grand, upright and digital instruments.

And they develop close relations with their global clientele, which includes local institutions like Overture Center and numerous churches. Especially, their clientele includes families. "So many people, I worked with the parents, and now I'm working with the children," says Timothy. "You want the instrument to bring joy to the family."

At Farley's House of Pianos, finances, sales and pedagogy are managed by Renee, who also serves on the boards of the Madison Symphony Orchestra League and Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. Timothy oversees a staff of technicians who restore and repair pianos, and prepare new ones for sale. He demands high-quality work. "It has to look and sound and play like a piano I restored," he says of an instrument from his shop. Indeed, he signs, in a small, neat hand, the soundboards of pianos he works on.

Timothy has strong feelings about the way pianos are treated even after they leave his store. He wants customers to play them, of course, and to give them pride of place in a home. "When you put the piano in the basement," he says, "that's where it is in your heart."

The piano is, says Timothy, "the most incredible instrument ever designed."

"We're doing something," says Renee, "that makes people's lives happy."

- Kenneth Burns