LEADERSHIP TEAM | COMPANY HISTORY | SCHOOL & STORE OVERVIEW
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music teacher and managing director of a large Steinway dealership, my dream of reinventing what I felt was the outdated world of music lessons and piano sales was a challenging prospect.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.
THE MERRIAM STORY
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
Fairness & Respect
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If only They Taught Music Like This when You Were a Kid
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.
Recital Hall, Recording Studio, 75+ Classrooms, 15+ group classrooms, Lecture and Workshop Rooms, and over 200 Instruments
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.
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.
Tradition, Innovation & Unwavering Commitment to The Power of Music.
DELIVERING EXCELLENCE SINCE 1988
Perfect Pitch, Every Time
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.
500+ new & used pianos across three showrooms offer the ultimate piano-shopping experience.
Merriam Pianos’ sales team blends exceptional piano knowledge with personalized guidance for every customer.
Experience transparency with our listed MSRP and discounted prices, and save through our significant buying power.
MERRIAM MUSIC HISTORICAL TIMELINE
Get In Touch
We are here to help you 7 days a week and respond within 24 hours.