The Hutchings Pianos’ story begins back in the early 1950s. The fifties were a time of great change and the start of a cultural revolution in Australia. World War II had ended in 1945, heralding unprecedented growth in immigration, particularly from Europe. The European community brought with them a love of the piano and introduced Australians to many new foods and flavours. For example, in 1952 the first espresso coffee machine was imported into Australia by the Andronicus brothers. The Australian economy also grew strongly during this decade. The rate of suburban home ownership rose dramatically from below 40 per cent in 1947 to more than 70 per cent by the 1960s. The 1950s were also a time of investment in the arts in Sydney. In 1956 for example, the NSW Government held an international competition to source a new design for a performance venue and the Sydney Opera House was conceived.
Set amidst this scene of cultural and economic development, Reg Hutchings, moved to Sydney from England in 1946. A keen piano player, taught by his grandmother, he loved playing piano so much that he would wear fingerless gloves, so he could still practice during the bitter English winters. Later, particularly during WWII, he travelled extensively in Europe and the US, particularly New York and New Orleans, gaining experience and deepening his love for his favourite music style, jazz. One day he tossed a coin to decide between applying for a place at the Julliard School of Music or getting a boat to Australia.
Reg moved to Australia and started working the entertainment circuit. He met his future wife, Pat at a coffee lounge one evening when he was performing. They later married and he adopted her son Terry. They settled at 5 Edgecliff Road Bondi Junction, which is above where the store is now, just before the birth of their first child together, Wendy. There was a hairdressing salon below their residence at that time.
Montage: (clockwise from left) Kings Cross, Sydney (Reg and Pat’s first Sydney home); Wendy Hutchings in garden rear of Hutchings Pianos 1958; Reg and Wendy Hutchings performing the Peter Gunn Theme by Dave Brubeck at a ship’s concert on the way to Europe; North Bondi Beach a favourite weekend retreat for the Hutchings family and lunchtime swim spot for Reg; Pat and Reg Hutchings outside Watson’s Bay Hotel; Reg Hutchings performing in Sydney.
Background: Iconic mural landmark on side of Hutchings Pianos building (Kendall St side), Duke Ellington, Lennie Tristano, Nina Simone, Thelonius Monk, Jelly Roll Morton, Stevie Wonder, Todd Dameron.
Reg worked for a number of years in Sydney as a professional musician and teacher. He supplemented his income with repairing and restoring pianos, initially just for his students, but later for the general public. The business was originally called ‘Reg Hutchings Piano Studio’, when in 1955, Reg and Pat took over the hair salon and turned it into a piano shop. Later the name changed to ‘Hutchings Pianos’ the store we know today.
Hutchings Pianos continued growing and soon started selling new pianos from a number of quality manufacturers in England, Germany, Japan and later Korea, Russia and China. It was also one of the first stores to offer pianos for rent in Australia, which proved to be very popular. There have been as many as 500 pianos rented across Sydney at any one time. The business has also built strong relationships with Sydney’s music and entertainment community and is a regular sponsor of the performing arts.
Reg was always passionate about pianos. He passed on his rapport, technical expertise, knowledge and business acumen to his children Terry, Wendy, Gregory, Rodney and Amanda. They grew up surrounded by pianos and each of them worked alongside him in the business at some stage of their lives.
When Reg’s health began to fail in 1996, he decided to handover the management and ownership of Hutchings Pianos to his children. Terry, Wendy, Greg, Rodney and Amanda took up positions as Board members. In 1997, a mural was commissioned on the Kendall St side of the building featuring jazz greats, Duke Ellington, Lennie Tristano, Todd Dameron, Thelonius Monk, Stevie Wonder, Jelly Roll Morton and Nina Simone, in honour of their father’s love of these artists and jazz piano music. The mural today is a well known landmark.
Sadly, Reg passed away in 2000 at the age of 83 and Pat in 2006 at the age of 79, but Hutchings Pianos is still a family owned and operated business today. Currently Wendy, daughter, Jody and sister, Amanda run the company. Wendy manages the day to day aspects of the store as Managing Director and Jody is Finance Manager.
The business is still thriving. There is a third and fourth generation of the Hutchings Pianos family business. Amanda’s son, Harvey, is now working casually while attending university and great grandchildren, Archie and Charlotte, Jody’s children, love to visit the business .