Santi Falcone

A Brief Bio.

Santi Falcone was born in Caltanisetta, Sicily in 1945, he came to America with his family when he was thirteen, but his parents determined that he had much musical talent, and he went back to Italy to further his musical education. While studying string bass at the Santa Cecilia Academia in Roma, he chanced to see s blind piano tuner at work on one of the school's pianos. He was so fascinated by the process that he convinced the old man to let him work as an assistant. Much impressed with the piano as an instrument, when he returned to the United States he enrolled in a technical school for additional training in piano tuning and repair.

By the time he was seventeen, he had become the piano technician for the Boston Conservatory of Music, with full responsibility for the maintenance of their 120 pianos. George Bramailla, the President of the school and later Executive VP of the Falcone Piano Company, said of Santi "We never saw him without big smile on his face, and he did an amazing amount of work single-handedly."

Later Santi struck out in business on his own and eventually built up a string of seven retail music stores, along with a reputation as an expert piano rebuilder. Personally rebuilding dozens of great vintage pianos, Santi accrued a special store of hands on information about pianos which could not be learned in any other way, studying the strengths and weakness of every piano design. This convinced him that he could build a piano that would combine the qualities of the best pianos ever made. The sound of his piano would be "as warm as the grand pianos known for warmth, and as powerful as the great pianos known for power".

Then in his forties, Falcone sold his music stores in order to help finance his plan for production of the Falcone Piano. Assembling a group of investors as stockholders, with operations leadership from Lloyd Meyer a former Steinway president, he converted a former shoe factory in Haverhill MA with newly designed manufacturing equipment and a corps of over fifty skilled piano workers and technicians, to turn out a dozen pianos a month when in full production. By comparison, Steinway in New York builds 250 and Yamaha churns out 15,000 or more monthly. Santi Falcone believed in the five or six hundred man hours needed for the construction of a single piano, which can be best described as a "hand made" instrument.

In 1989 the Board decided to go for faster production. Santi resigned from the company after the production of the first 170 pianos which were done under his personal supervision and final adjusting. He felt that his personal attention was needed for his designed to be correctly implemented, and withdrew plans, designs and patents which he deposited in the Smithsonian Archive as records of what he had be able to accomplish. In fact many parts and assemblies of pianos were still in production and another four hundred pianos came from Haverhill with the name Falcone on the fallboard, still remarkable pianos with much of the outstanding Falcone sound.

But for Santi Falcone that year was the end of a long planned venture to produce a series of constantly improving hand-made pianos for discriminating owners and performers worldwide. In the economic marketplace of these times, such a venture is increasingly difficult, for many reasons. First, labor and materials costs are constantly rising and especially now the availability of the best wood is threatened by the aggressive exporting market to countries which are unable to produce their own hard and softwoods for instrument uses. Second, it is difficult to compete with a piano in a market dominated by major makers like Steinway who have since the 1920's signed performers with a Contract to use their piano exclusively or lose the aids, perks and advertisements which the maker can provide. An independent maker like Falcone before, and the current Fazioli in Italy now, cannot address the performing market with free instruments put on stage for a performance, with tuning and voicing on stage for each concert, and a wealth of concomitant advertising. A small maker cannot compete , and Falcone's new designs disappeared after a few years, leaving however a trace of several hundred extraordinary instruments which are valued by owners as simply irreplaceable vintage instruments of unmatchable sound with increasing value.

But Santi Falcone was not a man to stay idea, he found that his private mixture of chocolate with secret ingredients as concocted in his kitchen, were widely praised and soon went into another stage of his creative personality with a company called Dante Confection . This operation grew and now has a factory north of Boston, still dedicated to the idea of the best of quality in yet another area.

There's a chocolate truffle maker, Dante's Confections, located three miles north of the city, and it has a store front (it's in the Treble Cove strip mall on route 3A aka Boston Road in North Billerica, just south of the interchange with route 129, a mile or so east of US 3), open business hours Monday through Saturday.

Santi still talks to friends about wanting to get back into the piano business, but he senses that is an expensive idea, and he is happy with his new venture, always concerned with quality, delicacy and still with "taste".

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College