• Merriam Story
  • Guiding Principles
  • Alan Merriam
  • Stu Harrision
  • Music School
  • Merriam Pianos
  • Company Timeline
Unleash The Power Of Music

MERRIAM MUSIC

LEADERSHIP TEAM | COMPANY HISTORY | SCHOOL & STORE OVERVIEW

Alan Merriam Sig - d4b132

FROM CONCEPT TO INDUSTRY LEADER

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Opening the doors of Merriam Music in April 1988 was equally thrilling and daunting. Even with many years of preparation under my belt as a working musician, music teacher and managing director of a large Steinway dealership, my dream of reinventing what I felt was the outdated world of music lessons and piano sales was a challenging prospect. To me, the vision was crystal clear; make learning music as fun as it was to play and sell world-class instruments with a world-class retail experience.

I often wondered why my peers hated their music lessons so much as kids. And why were music schools still taking the same old tired approach when the majority of the students quit? Also, I couldn’t understand why so often buying a piano had to be as uncomfortable as buying a used car.

After three decades (and a lot of trial and error) of grappling with these problems, building the largest single-purpose music school in North America, teaching over three million music lessons, and creating one of the finest selections of pianos anywhere in the world, my dream eventually became a reality.

I’m extraordinarily grateful for what our team has built together and how we’ve been able to make a real impact on the global music industry. And the journey is far from over.

With the next generation of passionate and prepared leaders firmly in place, we are ushering in an even more exciting time for our company.

So I hope you’ll come and visit us soon. It would be our pleasure and honour to allow us the opportunity to spark a little more music in your life.

THE MERRIAM DIFFERENCE

Insights from 25+ Year Employees

Mary FiczereMinh FedorationRob TardikAlan Merriam

Much is made within most companies about their culture and values – but few things speak more loudly than an employee’s experience and their decision to stay for decades. Watch three of our 25 year employees discuss why Merriam Music continues to be a place of professional growth and personal satisfaction.

First Employees Reflect In Their Own Words
Play Video about First Employees Reflect In Their Own Words
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THE MERRIAM STORY

OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES

01

FAIRNESS

Fairness & Respect

GUIDING PRINCIPLES​

Merriam Music has continuously affirmed a steadfast commitment to dignity, fairness, and respect for all stakeholders – whether it be customers, employees, students, or management – in every aspect of daily life at our schools and retail facilities. Living up to commitments, regardless of how big or small, and always putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes, are daily acts seen at every level of the business.

02

Improvement

Continuous Improvement

GUIDING PRINCIPLES​

Merriam Music is committed to constant improvement, and we mean it. Every employee is given numerous opportunities throughout the year to provide unfiltered suggestions and feedback to upper management, and many successful initiatives and differentiators in our industry have come from front-line employees.

03

Quality

Quality First

GUIDING PRINCIPLES​

We’re proud to deliver the highest levels of customer experience in the music education and piano retail industries, and our insistence on this standard informs all our decision-making. Many of our back-end systems and standards are in line with Fortune 500 companies 100x our size. And from finishings in our showrooms or the suppliers we select, or our teacher training programs and the instruments we provide our students, it’s always ‘quality-first’.

04

Equality

Equal Opportunity Employer

Equal-Opportunity Employer

GUIDING PRINCIPLES​

Merriam Music is committed to hiring talented individuals exclusively based on their past merits and future potentials. Amongst our dozens of 10+ year employees, we’re made richer and stronger by their diversity, and we encourage individuals from all walks of life to consider making Merriam Music your professional home.

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THE MANAGEMENT TEAM

ALAN MERRIAM: FOUNDER & CEO

Alan Merriam discovered the piano and the joy of making music at a very early age. By his early teens, with a foundation of formal lessons and natural musical curiosity under his belt, he realized music would always play an integral part of his life.

After moving to Toronto, Alan found success as a session player, performing musician, music teacher, and also as a piano sales professional, eventually becoming managing director of a large Steinway dealership..

Alan quickly saw a huge need to update and overhaul the way music lessons were taught, and to create a new way of helping people navigate through the murky waters of piano retail. He brought an entirely new business model to the city, and despite a highly competitive landscape, opened his own school of music and piano store in the Greater Toronto Area in April 1988.

Though the fledgling business had its fair share of challenges, his innovative model caught on immediately, and quickly propelled Merriam Music into one of North America’s fastest-growing music school and piano dealerships.

Alan’s vision for the school was simple. If students are having fun while learning, you can dramatically increase the level of complex musical content and accelerate learning, retention and skill set. This builds a much more robust set of musical literacy.

About Us Image - Alan
Alan Merriam Sig - d4b132

Building off his own experience, Alan partnered with a team of experienced educators/performers, including one of Canada’s top music pedagogists Tony Mergel, to create “Keyfest”, a ground-breaking holistic learning system for children as young as 4. Coupled with Alan’s focus on hiring top talent and delivering world-class customer service, the Merriam School experience soon became industry-leading. And the word got out quickly.

1998 was pivotal for the company. Convinced that a large-scale school was the only way to fully realize his vision, Alan bet the entire company’s future on building out North America’s first 20,000 sq ft community music school. Merriam Music Centre opened its doors that summer, and proved an instant success. The custom, purpose-built facilities provided professional-level spaces for students to perform, state-of-the-art classrooms, innovative ensemble/group/contemporary band instruction, and a professional piano showroom. Within just a few years, Merriam was bursting at the seams, requiring additional campus space, which was added just north of main facilities/campus.

Alan then led another major expansion of the piano store in 2006, tripling the footprint and brand offering, and hiring new sales and creative talent, one of which was Stu Harrison.. That expansion led to Merriam’s second location in North Toronto, and brought the school enrolment to over 3000 weekly students.

In 2012 Alan invested heavily in upgrading the facilities with a state-of-the-art recording studio, video wall, and pro-level lighting and camera system to record and capture every performance by every student on a professional broadcast studio stage, a dream he had for over a decade. This system of creating permanent “video logs” for each student every year continues to be a key element of Merriam Music’s unique, comprehensive and effective music education system.

Alan’s continuous focus on investment in cutting-edge software and technology led him to his next major innovation in 2015; building out a robust digital marketing network that would soon become a dominant global force in the music industry.

Merriam’s Youtube channel has become the highest-traffic acoustic piano review channel globally, and is recognized by manufacturers, dealers, and customers as a leading authority on pianos brands and models. And Merriammusic.com has become one of the largest piano centric websites in the world, with millions of unique visitors each year.

In 2019, Alan tasked his team with building out an enhanced technology offering, paving the way for the Merriam Music Online Academy platform (MMOA). The school successfully migrated over 3000 weekly lessons from in-studio to the newly-launched online platform in March 2020, a colossal task that Alan credits to the exceptional level of commitment and expertise of senior management and staff. This allowed the company to not just survive, but thrive during the pandemic. The company was able to achieve the highest student retention in the industry, as well as acquire the iconic Robert Lowrey Piano facilities in Toronto, and remodel it to become one the premier piano showrooms in the world.

After considering multiple succession options during the previous 10 years, Alan finally felt the time was right to craft a collaborative buyout with current President Stu Harrison, in which Alan, and some of his family members, would retain a substantial portion of ownership while handing operational control of the company to Stu.

Today Alan continues in his role as CEO and co-owner, and together with Stu Harrison they jointly direct the projects and initiatives that will shape Merriam Music for the next generation.

THE MANAGEMENT TEAM

STUART HARRISON: PRESIDENT

Stu Harrison grew up in Ingersoll Ontario to a musical home. Though his family was deeply involved in their automotive business in Woodstock, his mother’s love of music eventually won out, and Stu embraced a youth full of church choirs, organist jobs, restaurant performances and classical competition.

He would go on to attend the University of Toronto’s respected Jazz Performance program and graduated in 2003 with years-long engagements at Second City, Garden Brothers Circus, and his own wedding music business.

In 2005 he was contacted by Alan Merriam to join Merriam Music, first in a teaching capacity and finally in the piano sales department, where he began learning the ropes from Alan.

Stu would go on to apprentice and mentor Alan in many aspects of the business, but none as intensely as the piano store. Together with Alan, Stu introduced several new marketing and sales initiatives which helped fuel growth and place a new focus on the piano store’s potential.

Stuart Harrison
Stuart Harrison Signature

Their joint passion for customer education and fair and principled dealing would go on to include numerous store-wide buying guides, sales training improvements, an expansive website, and eventually, the company’s well-known Youtube channel. 

By 2021 Stu had occupied numerous roles within the company, including teacher, IT support, marketing director, a top salesperson, and sales director for both the piano stores and music school, while being deeply involved in many of the systems and process advancements at the company.

Then in December 2021, Stu became President of Merriam Music Inc, while also joining Alan in co-ownership of the business.

In addition to his life at Merriam, Stu continues to be an active member of Toronto’s music community. He currently resides in Milton, Ontario, with his wife and singer Annie Bonsignore and their two children.

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If only They Taught Music Like This when You Were a Kid

MERRIAM SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Merriam School of Music

DELIVERING EXCELLENCE SINCE 1988

The Music School You Deserve

Merriam School of Music

The Merriam School of Music was founded by Alan Merriam in 1988. Following his early success in the piano industry as a sales manager at Toronto’s Steinway franchise and before that in Ottawa, he opened his first location on April 1st and quickly grew the school.

Merriam and his team of respected Canadian pedagogists and musicians, including Tony Mergel, a former director of the ground-breaking Humber College Jazz School. They focused on the creation of a proprietary group-based curriculum that built upon the proven concepts of Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, and more recently the work of Dr. Robert Pace of Columbia University. His research revealed an accelerated adoption of musical concepts and fluency when social dynamics between peers were carefully managed and woven into the teaching environment.

Keyfest was the resulting curriculum, which introduced virtually all high-level aspects of musical fluency to children as young as 4, including modes, harmony, theory, rhythm, ensemble playing, memory, ear training, sight reading, and foundational music technology concepts like MIDI.

FACILITIES

Recital Hall, Recording Studio, 75+ Classrooms, 15+ group classrooms, Lecture and Workshop Rooms, and over 200 Instruments

TEACHERS

Over 100+ teachers have 4.5+ years of experience with us, and 40% of our full-time staff are 10+ year employees. The highest industry recruiting standards. 

STUDENTS

Merriam School of Music students are passionate learners of all ages, committed to gaining music as a life-long skill at amateur to professional levels.

Music education in the 20th and 21st centuries, for the most part, is based on old Victorian-era concepts of rote learning; at its core, it promotes mimicking and memorizing other people’s performances, often of classical music, as both the means of learning as well as its end goal.

And while the most talented amongst us still managed an enjoyable musical life after years in these conservatory-style systems, most people start, dislike it, and quit without ever realizing that it wasn’t them that was the problem in the first place.

We believe we’ve solved the problem. Not only has that fuelled our success, but more importantly, it has led to over 50,000 students of all ages acquiring musical skills that are useful, transferrable, and permanent.

The Merriam School of Music was founded by Alan Merriam in 1988. Following his early success in the piano industry as a sales manager at Toronto’s Steinway franchise and before that in Ottawa, he opened his first location on April 1st and quickly grew the school.

Merriam and his team of respected Canadian pedagogists and musicians, including Tony Mergel, a former director of the ground-breaking Humber College Jazz School. They focused on the creation of a proprietary group-based curriculum that built upon the proven concepts of Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, and, more recently, the work of Dr. Robert Pace of Columbia University. His research revealed an accelerated adoption of musical concepts and fluency when social dynamics between peers were carefully managed and woven into the teaching environment.

Keyfest was the resulting curriculum, which introduced virtually all high-level aspects of musical fluency to children as young as 4, including modes, harmony, theory, rhythm, ensemble playing, memory, ear training, sight reading, and foundational music technology concepts like MIDI.

The school grew quickly through the early 1990s, largely due to the popularity of the Keyfest group piano programs and the use of Roland MIDI modules in the teaching environment.

By 1997 the school was in need of a new, larger home. Merriam conceived of a mega-school expansion that, if built, would have resulted in North America’s largest community music education facility, with nearly 14,000 sq ft of instruction space and 5000 sq ft of retail showrooms. With funding from the Business Development Bank of Canada, Alan and his personal network of investors, the school broke ground at 2359 Bristol Circle in Oakville, ON, completing their present-day headquarters by 1998.

The school continued to expand through the early 2000s, adding an additional 10+ classrooms and more administrative space at 2381 Bristol Circle. In 2009 a third campus was added in Vaughan, ON, providing for a second piano showroom and a 500+ student school location.

In 2013 the school introduced several additional innovations such as Video Logs (which now include live streaming and capture of all student performances throughout the school year), an ‘MTV-style performance stage with full theatre lighting and sound systems, and an in-house recording studio and productions department.

Merriam opened its fourth campus in 2020 above the famed showrooms of Robert Lowrey in Toronto, Canada, the same year that Merriam High School was launched, an online/in-person private High School offering musical arts credits to Ontario students.

Merriam School of Music presently delivers over 3000 lessons per week across our four campuses. We employ over 120 teachers, and with few exceptions, they are long-term employees with an average tenure of 4.5 years.

Our focus continues to be finding new and innovative ways to bring music into people’s lives, focusing on holistic experiences that teach the language of music in a lasting way.

The problem with typical music instruction is that it’s restricted to highly rehearsed repetition and devoid of any meaningful comprehension; most students lose interest quickly and see little value in continuing.

We all know someone who was forced to take piano lessons for ‘x’ years and hasn’t touched their instrument since – despite having spent hundreds or thousands of hours in front of a musical instrument.

By introducing the language of music from the very beginning and weaving it and the act of music making into everyday life, music becomes for the student what it has always been throughout history: an aural mode of communication and creativity. And that’s before the cognitive, social, and self-confidence benefits are added on top.

  • Weekly Lessons Taught: 3000+
  • Campuses: Oakville South, Oakville North, Vaughan, Toronto
  • Teachers: 120+
  • Number of Pianos in the School: 103
  • Major Instruments Taught: Piano, Vocal, Drums, Guitar, Bass, Saxophone, Violin, Flute
  • Departments: Private Instruction, Enriched Department (Piano/Vocal), Contemporary Music Department (Rock Band / Songwriting / Production), Group Piano (flagship program, ages 4+), Preschool, Merriam Highschool
  • Extracurriculars Offered: Summer Camps, Choir, Open Mic nights, Jam Nights, multiple Concert Series, Music Festival, Keyfest Exams, Monthly Sign-up Recitals

Oakville: Studio A (100-seat multimedia stage with 4k recording), Studio B (In-house recording studio), Studio C (lecture hall/preschool music facility),

Vaughan / Toronto: Video Logs, Music Festival, Monthly Recitals, brand-new premium pianos in all classrooms, including grands, flex lessons for all students (seamless transition between in person or online as needs require)

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Tradition, Innovation & Unwavering Commitment to The Power of Music.

MERRIAM PIANOS

DELIVERING EXCELLENCE SINCE 1988

Perfect Pitch, Every Time

Merriam Pianos

Since its inception in 1988, Merriam Pianos has carved a distinct mark within Canada’s piano community, growing to become a globally esteemed piano retailer. The brainchild of Alan Merriam, the company’s strong commitment to quality, value, and fairness sets a high bar in customer service.

At Merriam Pianos, we believe our success hinges on the dedication and growth of our team, thus investing significantly in their professional development. We’ve established an environment where talent thrives, contributing to our esteemed reputation.

In our business operations, we adhere to the highest ethical standards, a testament to Alan’s belief in integrity and transparency. As we navigate the future, we are resolute in preserving these traditions and principles, continually striving for excellence.

SELECTION

500+ new & used pianos across three showrooms offer the ultimate piano-shopping experience.

EXPERTS

Merriam Pianos’ sales team blends exceptional piano knowledge with personalized guidance for every customer.

SAVINGS

Experience transparency with our listed MSRP and discounted prices, and save through our significant buying power.

Since its founding in 1988, Merriam Pianos has built an enduring legacy of exceptional service within Canada’s piano community. Today, we stand proud as one of the world’s most significant and esteemed piano retailers, a testament to the unwavering commitment and passion we infuse into every facet of our business.

The vision of our founder, Alan Merriam, forms the bedrock of Merriam Pianos. Alan’s enduring commitment to quality, value, and fairness has set the benchmark for customer service that we continue to uphold.

Beyond the customer, we’re deeply committed to nurturing and fostering talent within our team. Recognizing that our success is directly linked to the dedication and growth of our employees, we invest time and resources into professional development, ensuring our team is at the forefront of piano expertise.

Moreover, our operations adhere to the highest ethical standards, a testament to Alan’s belief in conducting business with integrity and transparency. We recognize that our reputation rests not only on the quality of our pianos but also on the strength of our values.

As we look to the future, we remain steadfast in preserving these traditions and principles while pushing boundaries in our pursuit of excellence. The story of Merriam Pianos is one of tradition, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to the power of music. 

Alan’s passion for pianos reaches back to his early teens, when he began exploring a path to professional musicianship – first with his brother and later at the esteemed Jazz Program at Humber College.

He quickly became enamoured with both the beauty and depth of acoustic piano making as well as the newly-emerging digital piano industry, becoming one of the first performers to integrate MIDI into his everyday musical life in the early 1990’s.

When he opened his shop in 1988, he quickly found natural synergies between his music students’ successes in the classroom and the level of excitement they had for their home instrument, which led him to integrate MIDI technologies into his school curriculum earlier than even most universities would have considered.

Working with the few brands available to him, he established Merriam Pianos along side his school and quickly grew it to regional significance, even winning some important national sales awards along the way.

The move to 2359 Bristol Circle in 1997/98 was a major turning point for the store, by that time an established Kawai dealer. The sales team had grown to three, and they were beginning to pose a serious challenge to the Yamaha and Steinway’s iron grip over the GTA piano market.

By 2006 the pivot to pianos and away from other smaller instruments like guitars, percussion and woodwinds was fully complete, and a major renovation led to international notice by publications like Music Inc Magazine. This helped fuel the addition of the Vaughan showroom and a multi-year expansion into digital marketing through the later 2010s.

 

After years of carefully pruning the portfolio of brands, C. Bechstein was brought on board as the crown jewel of the collection, re-introducing the legendary German piano maker back into the Toronto market after years of touch-and-go representation. This helped accelerate growth further, and by the start of the COVID pandemic, Merriam was vying for top dealership in the country by volume.

In 2017, following years of investment into its online presence, Alan and Stu Harrison, the then-sales director, would venture into video marketing for the first time with the mission of creating the world’s first video catalogue of comprehensive piano reviews. It remains an ongoing project, and after 400 videos and nearing 20 million views, it has become the largest acoustic pianos one of the go-to resources for piano shoppers and dealers the world over.

In 2020 the venerable Robert Lowrey Piano Experts was purchased, and on September 4th, Alan would walk into his newest and largest showroom, long considered the most prestigious piano destination in Canada, as its owner. With the showrooms also came extensive workshop facilities, which allowed for a dramatic expansion of our used piano offering.

The 10+ member Merriam Piano’s team continues to explore exciting new ways to introduce piano playing and ownership into people’s lives, through virtual showroom visits, video reviews, showroom education, and top-tier decor and shopping experiences. Our team, under the direction of our President Stu Harrison, is made up of musical and passionate communicators who have all resonated with Alan’s core message of linking inspiring instruments to more musically-fulfilled lives.

  • Founded By: Alan Merriam, Current CEO
  • Current President: Stu Harrison (2021)
  • Locations: Oakville (2359 Bristol Circle, Oakville), Vaughan (3175 Rutherford Rd, Vaughan), Leaside (943 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto)
  • Brands Carried: Kawai, Roland, Casio, Seiler, C .Bechstein, Schimel, W. Hoffmann, Shigeru Kawai, Estonia, Pearl River, Ritmuller
  • New Pianos in Stock: 650+
  • Used Pianos in Stock: 150+
  • Countries Served: All
  • Price Range: $149 – $2,500,000
MERRIAM MUSIC HISTORICAL TIMELINE

COMPANY TIMELINE

1988
1988

Keyfest Learning System

A New Vision for Music Education: Alan Merriam founded Merriam Music with a mission to revolutionize music education and piano retail in Canada. Collaborating with some of Canada’s most respected pedagogists and musicians, he introduced our proprietary Keyfest Learning System and established a thriving community music school.

1991
1991

National Sales Awards

First national sales awards for Kawai & Roland acoustic and digital pianos, one of the fastest sales growths on record in the music industry. School surpasses 500 students for the first time.

1997
1997

Merriam Music Headquarters

School surpasses 700 + weekly lessons; to accommodate this continued growth trajectory, a 20,000 sq ft headquarters capable of hosting 3,000+ weekly music students and a premiere instrument showroom is built. 

Merriam School of Music
2001
2001

Corporate Offices

Merriam School of Music reaches 1,750 weekly lessons with school classrooms and corporate offices open at 2381 Bristol Circle, across the street from the now fully utilized main Oakville campus at 2359 Bristol Circle.

2006
2006

2,945 Weekly Students

Merriam School of Music reaches 2,945 weekly lessons. Merriam Music’s retail future became further centred around pianos, and a major showroom expansion at Oakville nearly doubled our yearly sales and introduced more than six world-class brands to our existing portfolio.

Nursery children playing with musical instruments in the classroom. One little boy is looking at the camera with a tambourine.
2009
2009

Merriam Music Vaughan

Merriam School of Music reaches 3,148 weekly lessons. Merriam Music Vaughan opens its doors, expanding our GTA reach to the north and east with a school capacity of 500+ students and an additional 2000 sq ft of showroom space.

Merriam Pianos | Vaughan, ON
2012-2020
2012-2020

Innovation & Diversification

Innovating and Diversifying: Merriam Music introduced cutting-edge programs, like music production courses and enriched jazz programs, while expanding into digital piano e-commerce and launching our industry-leading YouTube channel.

2020-2022
2020-2022

Robert Lowrey Acquisition

The school navigates the pandemic shutdowns with success, and returns to pre-pandemic enrolment levels by mid 2022. The piano store continues it’s growth through the acquisition of Robert Lowrey Piano Experts, and Merriam School of Music Toronto opens it’s doors. Merriam High School launches as well, offering fully accredited High School Credits to Ontario students through both in-person and virtual means.

Merriam School of Music - Piano Lessons, Guitar Lessons, Vocal Lessons
2022
2022

Merriam Legacy Continues

Alan Merriam (CEO) and Stu Harrison (President) conclude a leveraged management buyout that puts into motion long-term succession plan that ensures that Alan and several of his children continue to be involved in the business, with operational control and co-ownership to Stu Harrison.

Get In Touch

Contact Us

We are here to help you 7 days a week and respond within 24 hours. 

General Inquiries​
Oakville

2359 Bristol Circle, Unit #200
Oakville, ON L6H 6P8
(416) 639-2186
pianosoakville@merriammusic.com

Vaughan

3175 Rutherford Rd, Unit #75
Vaughan, Ontario L4K 5Y6
(416) 639-2187
pianosvaughan@merriammusic.com

Toronto

943 Eglinton Ave E,
East York, ON M4G 4B5
(416) 423-0434
info@merriammusic.com