Russell Kassman Retires After 40 Years

Media contact: David Perry / (415) 676-7007 / news@davidperry.com 

Russell Kassman Retires After 40 Years

Venerable Purveyor of Fine Pianos Under New Ownership April 1

18 March 2019 – San Francisco, CA: The venerable piano shop R.KASSMAN Purveyor of Fine Pianos, which has been a Bay Area stalwart amongst the area’s Artists and Enthusiasts for more than 40 years, will change hands at the end of March. Russell Kassman, the owner of the eponymous store is retiring.

“For forty-one years, I have been privileged to live in San Francisco and participate in its vibrant, world-renowned cultural scene,” said Kassman. “On a visit in 1977, San Francisco won my heart, and 42 years later she has my soul as well.” 

For decades, R.KASSMAN has been the choice of Bay Area musicians and visiting Artists. The company specializes in hand-crafted European pianos, as well as the finest instruments from Asia and restored vintage American instruments. A veritable who’s who of musicians and enthusiasts have chosen R.KASSMAN to supply their pianos; from Rod Stewart to Valentina Lisitsa, Billy Childs to Gordon Getty, Grammy nominated Artists Barbara Higbie and Sharon McNight, Steve Jobs to Jerry Rice, Michael Feinstein to Thom Felicia, San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet, Fairmont Hotels, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus to San Francisco Girls Chorus, the list of R.KASSMAN patrons is lined with today’s Artists and yesterday’s icons.

Kassman, who holds a degree in piano from Chicago Musical College, came to the Bay Area as a piano technician in 1978, and was quickly sought-after as a piano technician. At the encouragement of customers Louis Magor (SF Symphony Chorus director emeritus) and Calvin Simmons (Oakland Symphony Conductor, deceased), Kassman opened his eponymous shop in Oakland across from the Paramount theater. In 1981, the San Francisco Opera’s Kurt Herbert Adler appointed Kassman as the purveyor to the San Francisco Opera, and the shop opened an additional location in San Francisco’s Symphony district. 

Upon hearing of Mr. Kassman’ s retirement, San Francisco Symphony pianist emeritus Robin Sutherland remarked: “My professional relationship with Russell Kassman was solidified on March 21, 1985 — the actual 300th birthday of J. S. Bach — when I performed the Goldberg Variations in San Francisco to commemorate that auspicious occasion. R. Kassman provided a magnificent Bechstein grand for me to use, and I was captivated. Captivated to the point that when the performance concluded, I went to Russell on bended knee and begged him to put that piano aside for me, against the day I might be able to afford it for my own personal use.”

Sutherland continued: “In a gesture that I have since come to find typical of him, Russell did make that possible, and the Bechstein has graced my home in San Francisco from that day to this. Built upon this foundation, a personal and business association has developed over forty years, and it is one that I cherish more than I can say. I beat Russell to retirement by maybe six months or so, but the thought of him moving on is one I entertain as very bittersweet. My life without R. Kassman Pianos is not an easy one to contemplate, but my heart is full as I watch him take a remarkable four decades of supplying great music to us in the Bay Area and move forward. I cannot adequately express the vastness of my gratitude to him.”

Mr. Kassman was also actively involved in civic pursuits throughout his career. He was appointed by then SF Mayor Art Agnos to the Small Business Advisory Commission and served under Agnos and Mayor Frank Jordan. He was later appointed to the Mayor’s Office of Business and Economic Development by former SF Mayor Willie Brown. R.KASSMAN has received hundreds awards and accolades, including two Cable Car Awards and the SF Chamber of Commerce Business Arts Advocate award. 

As the company heads towards new ownership, R.KASSMAN is selling the remaining pianos selected by Mr. Kassman during his semi-annual European and Asian buying trips as well as a collection of R.KASSMAN restored vintage Steinway pianos. The new owner, Mr. Brent Smith, is a pianist and graduate of the Eastman School of Music. About Mr. Smith, Kassman remarked “I am thrilled that 40 years of building our reputation and selection of superb instruments will be in the stewardship of such a dedicated piano person.” 

Following the sale, the new business will be known as “Heart and Soul Pianos”.