There is tantamount to a spiritual connection between a player and his or her instrument and that can also be said of the toy piano.

John Cage’s Suite for Toy Pianofrom 1948 is the first-ever serious piece of music written for the toy piano.

Margaret Leng Tan Margaret Leng Tan. Photo © Michael Dames

It is really quite daunting because of all the subtleties and intricacies that Cage managed to create with just nine white notes. The phrasings and touch differentiations that Cage painstakingly included turn it into a sophisticated and demanding challenge. I thought to myself, “Golly, if I can master this, I can turn this humble little thing into a realinstrument.” That was the genesis of it. And then it did become a real instrument – I got my composer friends excited and it spurred them on to heights of unprecedented creative frenzy, and before you knew it I had a repertoire.

I have my touring pianos, a grand and a vintage 1970s upright. They are the top of the line. They’re not just the Steinways of the toy piano world. I regard them as the Stradivarii of...

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