Thursday, December 3, 2009

Introducing, Oleg Gladkoff

Oleg Gladkoff
Mr. Oleg Gladkoff

ABC Piano Co.
ABC Piano Co.

I met this man a few days ago. His name is Oleg Gladkoff. He runs ABC Piano Co. in North Park on El Cajon Blvd. I guess you could say that I have met him before, but that was in passing. I remember going into his store months ago, after driving by it, to browse around and check out pianos. Not that I actually have the money to buy a piano, let alone the space for it, but I have always had a fascination with those black and white keys. A few years back I took some piano lessons and enjoyed it, but not having an actual piano to practice on, quickly derailed that experiment. I remember going into ABC Piano Co. and asking the price about a couple of the ivory-keyed beasts and perusing for a few minutes at most.



What made me return to that store? Do I have the money or space for a piano? Negative. You see, I get ideas for paintings and photographs from out of nowhere usually. The other night I was watching television, and for no reason really, an idea popped into my head. I started to get ideas to shoot a piano. While I was thinking about the different shots I could get, I remembered that store. Then I started thinking about how it would be interesting to not only get shots of different pianos, but also possibly shooting some of the owner and hopefully getting him to play the piano.

Nickelodeon 2.
Nickelodeon piano.

bare all.
bare all.

I drove there not really knowing what to expect. I walked in with my camera in hand and an extra roll of black and white film. I was looking around as the older gentleman, Mr. Gladkoff, walked out. He gave me his sales pitch on a couple of pianos, explaining to me that these pianos were built to last. He showed me the difference between a real wooden piano and one made with particleboard. A Baldwin piano, he assured me, was the piano for me. I was astonished at how low he was selling them. As I looked at the writing on the outside of the window, he is currently having a clearance sale. Unfortunately, the ABC Piano Co. is closing. He came to reveal to me that he recently had a stroke and is therefore selling his store. No longer able enough to work on all of the pianos himself and put them back together again; he must get rid of them. While talking to him, he tells me he has to use “those spring things” to help build back the muscles in his hands. As I ask him whether he is still able to play he tells me he does because it helps work the muscles in his forearms, and sits down to play. I quickly and politely ask if I may take some photos to which he agrees. I was only able to snap a few of him while he tickled the ivories.

Mr. Oleg Gladkoff playing the piano

playing the keys.

As we continued to talk he showed me a picture that was taken of him in his twenties, which was published in The New York Times. Originally from Ukraine, he came to make his way to the United States. He told me about serving in the Army for a few years, how he lived and played the piano in New York and Boston, before coming out to San Diego.

inside the piano.
felt covered hammers.

grand piano.
Grand Piano.

“If it wasn’t for the piano”, Oleg Gladkoff said, “I would not be alive today.” He told me a story about the day Nazis raided his home. As they went through his house, they asked him to play the piano. He obliged. What ensued was the magic of music. The notes he played hit a chord within those men. The soldiers went from pointing their guns at him, to shaking his hand and thanking him for the music he had just played. As Mr. Gladkoff said to me, “Music has a way of getting into your soul.”



Anonymous said...

Thank you for this profile, and your photos. We paid Mr. Gladkoff a visit recently, and found your blogpost afterward. Our visit was in many ways like yours--we loved the 1940s Times portrait of the younger man. He is still keeping some hours at the shop as of January 2011. It is a wonderful place. Your photography portraying it is likewise a treasure.

Los said...

Thank you so much for your feedback. It was an honor to be able to speak with and photograph Mr. Gladkoff. He is truly one of a kind. I would also like to thank you for finding my blog and for your compliments about my photography, its a great feeling knowing people appreciate it. I wish more people knew about Oleg Gladkoff.

Anonymous said...

So I'm not the only one who knows about Mr. Gladkoff? I've been to that little treasure of a shop several times and enjoyed each visit. Meeting him and having him compliment my playing (I played a little on each of his pianos to hear what they sound like) was very encouraging and an honor. If only I had room for a second piano!
I enjoyed your article very much and the photography was beautiful! :)

Los said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond, but thank you for finding my blog post about Mr. Gladkoff. He is certainly an extraordinary man. It was a pleasure talking to him and being in his store. Thank you for the compliments on the photography, I really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Regrettably the piano shop is closed now. I got the opportunity to film Mr. Gladkoff playing very briefly. He was very reserved about playing. It was brilliant. The file was corrupted and could not be processed. I regret this intensely. This man is a wealth of information. I dont know where he went but I hope he will play.