Piano and Keyboard Specialist
By Jackie Byers
If it has a piano keyboard, you can find it at longtime Omaha establishment Keyboard Kastle. The business was founded by Rick Backhaus in 1977. After 42 years, it is still owned and operated by the Backhaus family. “Music has always been in my life,” Rick declares. “I was playing an organ in front my father’s drugstore in Moline in 1959. I was studying pharmacy, planning to join my dad’s business…then, I met my wife-to-be.”
Rick’s future wife was part of an all-girl quartet. “They appeared in many Omaha night spots that are gone,” Rick recalls, “places like Club 89 and the Bicentennial Saloon.” Rick became their keyboardist and traveled with them for two years. “We performed in many countries: Japan, all over Africa, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and the West Coast, even many times in Las Vegas.” After they got married and started a family, they stopped touring, and Rick opened Keyboard Kastle. Their sons, Dave and Luke, are also musicians and have been part of the business.
Rick’s pride in his family is easy to see, as is his pride in the business he runs. He believes that providing the widest selection of all things keyboard and taking care of clients are the keys to his success. “I understand the importance of customer service—a happy client is a loyal client. I know my products and advise clients to best suit their wants and needs.”
Keyboard Kastle customers appreciate the service they receive, both before and after purchasing an instrument. “Our service technician, Rickard Walker, knows his way around many musical instruments. He and I both know that once we deliver a piano or home organ to your house—it’s best if it stays put. We make house calls.”
Developments in technology have left no industry unchanged, and that includes the making and use of digital piano keyboards. “The portable keyboard and its computerization have changed things greatly,” Rick explains. “In the 1980s, Yamaha introduced its Clavinova. This name combines two words: clavier (keyboard) and nova (new).” This keyboard was computerized—in the 1980s. Time Magazine named it one of the fifty most influential gadgets of all time.
The Clavinova changed music-making, both at home and in public, by combining the small size of a spinet with the sounds of a synthesizer. Over the years, Rick has seen his customers’ preferences change along with the technology. “While we still sell and service organs, and we have sold to churches all over the Midwest, many churches now want to convert to a Clavinova. Yamaha produces a great line of these instruments.”
A Clavinova has a lot of great qualities. It can provide music lessons, can record sound, and features permanent tuning. They come in beautiful wood finishes like ebony, rosewood, mahogany, and walnut. They are so attractive that they often end up in the living room. The sounds are produced by a computer that has recorded the sounds of an acoustic piano.
“The Clavinovas can play and sound like an acoustic piano; they have 88 keys and three pedals. They also produce other sounds. Organ, harp, harpsichord, and drum are just a few of the possibilities.” Prices vary according to the features, Rick notes. As a lifetime investment in music-making, a Clavinova is a great choice.
Keyboard Kastle has a huge inventory of Clavinovas (as well as many other keyboards). “One of the interesting models has a keyboard that lights up the notes you should play for a song. Even if you can’t read music, the keyboard will teach you how to play the song.” Rick invites us to come in and take a test drive. Trying out a wide assortment of instruments, he says, is the way “to find the one that best suits you.”
“I also carry several types of synthesizers that produce a multitude of sounds. Really, anything that makes a sound is making music, and synthesizers can reproduce them all. A synthesizer can also distort sounds,” Rick continues. “This became popular in the 1960s, with the rise of rock music. Now, distortion is used in many other styles of music. If you want to know what a synthesizer can do, come in and try one.”
You’ve probably driven past Keyboard Kastle many times—it’s just east of 72nd and Dodge Streets, next to Wolf Brothers Western Wear (7013 Dodge Street). When you step inside their showroom, you are surrounded by hundreds of gleaming, beautiful pianos and keyboards. Rick smiles. “I have a whole lot more on the lower level. Whatever your interest or musical taste, you should visit Keyboard Kastle or online at keyboardkastle.com.”
If you have any questions, call Keyboard Kastle at 402-593-9400.
Owner Rick Backhaus