Squirrel Hill woman, 95, performs at Piano Day of Pittsburgh
Her 95-year-old hands glide across the keys with ease.
Listeners sing along to her tunes.
Her smile is contagious.
Rose “Rosie” Mervis Wyner has been playing the piano for more than nine decades — since age 4.
It’s her passion, her love of making music, which she’s shared with thousands of people through more than 100 performances.
She showcased her talent at Piano Day of Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh.
“People enjoyed having me play for them,” Wyner said. “I didn’t like practicing. I liked playing what I wanted to play. I have been playing the piano all my life. People heard about me playing by word of mouth and hired me to play for them.”
On Sunday, she amazed the crowd standing nearby, taking requests.
Steinway piano cruises through city
Peter Stumpf, a piano technician, created Piano Day of Pittsburgh. He and a group of musicians strapped an 800-pound, seven-foot concert semi-grand Steinway & Sons “836” piano, valued at over $100,000, to an open-bed trailer.
Then they drove it around the city Saturday.
On Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., the piano made its way to Market Square for open play, where everyone was invited to perform.
Stumpf said he wanted to have people play a top-of-the-line instrument. He owns Pianoburgh, a business that services pianos throughout the region.
“This is what Piano Day is all about,” said Stumpf, as he watched Wyner play. “She is playing an instrument that has been a part of her entire life. She plays beautifully. It brings back memories. Music is impossible to learn without sharing.”
Wyner, 95, lives at Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center run by the Jewish Association on Aging in Squirrel Hill. She performed into her 80s, which included taking the stage many nights at the former More restaurant and bar in Oakland. She also performed the home where she resides when it was the Jewish Home for the Aged.
She still plays these days for fun.
Wyner is mostly self-taught, learning her craft by ear.
She could have performed as an opera singer – she is a Coloratura Soprano — but chose to have a family with husband, Mel. They raised two sons, Stan, who lives in Buffalo, and Bobby of Monroeville. Bobby Wyner recalled his mother at the piano at all hours of the day and night.
She was considered a child prodigy, Bobby Wyner said.
“She would play a lot of the time,” said Bobby Wyner. “Sometimes into the early evening hours, but she also had time for us. She’s a wonderful mother, grandmother, aunt, sister and mother-in-law. She’s a loyal friend to many.”
Wyner performed with a trio of entertainers known as AK Productions, which included herself, Vicki Altman and Dorie Kriss, who were hired for shows and other Hadassah Greater Pittsburgh events.
She also performed at B’nai B’rith.
Her career included playing the piano as well as singing at many weddings and other events. She took lessons as a child and earned a scholarship to the Irene Kaufmann Settlement, a Jewish school located in the Hill District that also focused on the arts and music. She was 5 years old.
“To be able to remember these songs after not playing or practicing every day is amazing,” said Bobby Wyner’s wife, Fran Wyner, as they watched on Sunday. “You just name a tune and she plays it. It’s incredible.”
Rose Wyner’s father, Morris, bought a piano for the family. When she saw it, she walked up, sat down and just started playing.
“My mother was speechless,” Rose Wyner said.
On Sunday, she took requests and just kept playing. She’s mastered tunes from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ‘60s and ’70s.
She sang at her graduation from Fifth Avenue High School and at her wedding to Mel, who she met on a blind date.
Wyner is one of eight children, second youngest.
Invited back next year
She would practice in the family living room and her mother, Fanny, would open the door and the neighbors would sit on the steps and listen.
Wyner grew up in the Hill District then moved to Oakland, the East End, New Jersey and Stanton Heights before moving to Squirrel Hill.
Stumpf was asked if Rose Wyner was the oldest person to perform at Pittsburgh Piano Day.
“Yes,” he said. “Until next year. I invited her to come back and play next year.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .