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Man Donates Liberace's Piano

By Jerry Najera, Multimedia Journalist
Published On: Jan 14 2014 07:52:11 PM CST

Piece of history left in downtown El Paso

El Paso, Texas -

The El Paso Scottish Rite Temple in the downtown art district gets a big gift.

A grand piano and a piece of history, but the compelling part, is how the temple got a hold of it's new acquisition.

That grand piano once belonged to Wladziu Valentino Liberace.

The 9-foot grand concert piano was commissioned especially for Liberace when he performed in El Paso in 1985, and now, it has a permanent place for everyone to play it in downtown.

Liberace was born in 1919, as a boy growing up with a speech impedement, he found his voice through the piano.

As he got older and his talent became more well known, Liberace was deemed a musical prodigy.

As time progressed, so did his persona.

Liberace became the flamboyant pianist the world thinks of now.

The bejeweled fingers of Liberace graced thousands of pianos during the course of his lifetime, but for one El Paso performance in 1985, Liberace had a grand piano specially made.

Two years later, the musician died and Liberace left the piano to a friend but it also came with a $17,000 balance.

"When they called the guy he had gone bankrupt and he said he couldn't even pay to have the piano tuned," said Jack Steward, a longtime El Paso piano enthusiast.

He heard the story and decided to buy the collector's item.

The black instrument, with ebony and ivory keys, came with Liberace's signature detailed with his drawing a of grand piano.

Steward enjoys the piano, but he knows his days of playing are now numbered.

"Parkinson's in time, will prevent me from playing," said Steward.

When Steward was diagnosed with Parkinson's, he wanted to see his collector piece go to a worthy cause and so he decided to donate it.

"It wasn't easy, because that's my baby," said Steward.

"He wanted a home for this instrument and he thought the Scottish rite temple would be the best place for it, to make it available to music students and the community of El Paso to play," said Tom Higgins, a member of the Free Masons.

Steward's "baby" has found a good home.

"This is a historic place. It was built in 1921 and it's been home to music since that day, it was the first home of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, so it's home to music," said Higgins.

Not dwelling on what he's giving up, Steward's thinking about El Paso's next generation of musicians, watching the eyes of teenage piano players light up, as they sit down to play upon a piece of history.

Steward told ABC-7,"After I'm gone the piano will still be here for children to be excited about. Once they hear this--it will change their life."

Steward says the piano has a value that ranges from $250,000 to $500,000 but the price is irrelevant compared how he feels about donating the grand piano to the community on Sunday, which happens to be his 75th birthday.

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