SHELTON — A recent donation to the school district has been music to the ears of staff and students.

John Amatuzzi had been living in Shelton until a job transfer forced a move to Texas. Before leaving, he gave a parting gift to the district - a Strauss and Son Baby Grand Player piano, which he had originally purchased for $18,000 and since was appraised at $8,000.

"This piano is, without a doubt, the most magnificent instrument that a school system could have,” Deb Keller, K-12 music curriculum leader, said. “In my opinion, we could never have purchased one as we have so many other educational needs, and a piano like this would truly be at the bottom of a BOE wish list — but definitely on the top of my list.”

The player piano now sits in the lobby at Perry Hill School — a perfect fit, according to Keller, since both Shelton High and Shelton Intermediate schools already have grand pianos.

"We are thrilled to have this addition to Perry Hill,” school Principal Lorraine Williams said. “Pre-COVID, we had the largest chorus in the district. We believe we will continue to have a good-sized chorus in the future. The age of our students and their enthusiasm for music as well as the acoustics in the lobby make Perry Hill a perfect location.”

Interim Superintendent Beth Smith said Amatuzzi called Keller asking about donating a piano to the system.

“It was truly one of the most beautiful instruments Deb has ever seen,” Smith said. “Since its arrival at PHS, the music teachers have been using it. This piano has a player piano attached, and everyone is enjoying listening to the discs and watching the keys move.”

Smith said the Perry Hill School lobby, with its three levels and excellent acoustics, allows the piano to produce “a beautiful, warm, rich sound.

“The PHS Music Department is thrilled to have this instrument,” Smith added, “and hope that as soon as the COVID restrictions are lifted, our 100-member chorus will be performing with it.”

Keller said if the district ever returns to "normal,” the piano can also be used by the other performing groups in the school system.

“The piano is a player piano which makes it very unique for a school system to have,” Keller said. “The player system is a media unit that plays and records on floppy discs. These prerecorded discs play music, similar to a CD.”

Keller said while the disc is playing, the piano keys are moving as if the piano were being played by a person.

“The system also allows us to vary the tempos of the music while it is being played and can change the pitch of the notes higher or lower (transposition) that will adapt to the range of the human voice or the range of other instruments,” Keller said. “The piano will aid in general music instruction in rhythm, melody, appreciation and gives us another resource in teaching cultural diversity through music.”

Keller said Amatuzzi also donated lights for the studio at Shelton High.

“To receive a call from a Shelton resident who offered this wonderful instrument to us is incredible as he could have sold it,” Keller said. “Fortunately he thought of the value to our students.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com