“There’s just a lot of sentimental value:” Contact 6 assists in effort to repair antique piano

MILWAUKEE -- When those we love leave us, the things they touched become more precious. For Karen Fields, that thing is a Schulz Player Baby Grand Piano -- a favorite of her late husband.

A water leak damaged the piano, which used to sit in the corner of her Milwaukee home.

Karen Fields and her late husband.

"There's just a lot of sentimental value, of anything that could have been destroyed, that was the one thing," Fields said.

Fields brought the piano to Neuhaus Piano Workshop for repairs. The corner in her home has been empty ever since.

"Three and a half years," Fields said.

Fields' husband's health was declining in 2014 when she paid $10,000 upfront for the piano repairs. The piano is still sitting in the Neuhaus Piano Workshop. It has been refinished, but the owner, Tom Neuhaus, can't get it to play.

Karen Fields antique player piano has been sitting in Neuhaus Piano Workshop for more than three years. The owner, Tom Neuhaus, can't get it to play.

"I don't like this. My father and I both prided ourselves on getting things done and making them play the way they should," Neuhaus said.

Tom Neuhaus, owner of Neuhaus Piano Workshop

Neuhaus' dad, Arnold, founded the West Allis piano workshop in 1957. The father and son worked side by side for years.

A year and a half after taking Fields' piano, Neuhaus experienced his own tragedy when his father died at the age of 92.

"He and I were two separate businesses. I inherited all his work. I don`t have anyone working for me full-time who can do this work," Neuhaus explained.

Neuhaus' business has an A+ rating with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. He says repairing old player pianos like Fields' is a dying art and he's the only one the area who can even try to fix it.

Arnold Neuhaus

"Schulz went out of business in 1933. The heyday of the player piano was between 1915 and 1925...They were as common as CD player is today. Everybody owned a player piano back then," Neuhaus said.

"He said, 'Oh, I can fix that," Fields recalled.

Fields says she's tried to be patient making many calls to the workshop often without a response.

Karen Fields explains her concerns with the piano repairs with Contact 6's Jenna Sachs.

"Either he's been ill or there's just too many jobs to do. There's alwayssomething," Fields said.

Now, she says she's waited long enough.

"I'm hoping he can find someone to fix my piano for me. I want my piano back, but I want it in working order," Fields said.

"I don't like keeping people waiting for things. There are times where these things happen," Neuhaus said.

The player mechanism in Karen Fields piano has been shipped to player piano expert Brian Thornton in Tennessee.

In an effort to turn the page, FOX6's Contact 6 tracked down another player piano expert. His name is Brian Thornton of Short Mountain Music in Tennessee. He has experience rebuilding a number of Schulz pianos like Fields'.  Neuhaus has shipped the piano playing mechanism to Thornton. The idea is if Thornton can't make Fields' piano play maybe no one can.

Thornton says he's got a couple of options. He can either repair the player mechanism or build an entirely new one. He's done both before. So, Thornton is optimistic.