Dan Murphy, owner of Mid-America Piano, has a couple of passions in life: music and helping others. Through his company, he’s sometimes able to combine the two loves.
Murphy began Mid-America Piano in August 1986 with an inventory of two or three used pianos. He started the business as a way to provide affordable pianos to help children start their lessons.
Murphy said his family is very involved in music. His parents are musicians, and both of his grandmothers played the piano. Murphy recalled sitting on his maternal grandmother’s lap pressing the keys while she worked the pedals.
“I put my fingers on the keys and watch them go down and watch for patterns,” Murphy said.
Murphy, who plays the organ at weddings, funerals and church services at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, said it takes a lot of focus and discipline to play the piano.
“I really think learning piano specifically puts your brain in a faster gear,” he said. “When you push your brain, it helps you have higher aptitude for math and science.”
Murphy has used Mid-America Piano to provide potential starts for piano players as well as provide service for those in need. A piano teacher on the company mailing list was a victim of the deadly Joplin tornado from a year ago. Murphy and three delivery workers were able to help the teacher’s family and others.
Murphy said he’s been a couple of times since his initial visit. “I made lifelong friends from my trip last year,” he said.
Mid-America Piano has grown into a business that sells around 100 pianos per year. Murphy said he makes deliveries a lot of the time. “We go all over the country,” he said. “It just depends on who wants what.”
The company even sells pianos internationally; a grand piano was shipped to a Tanzanian school last year.
Murphy called music the “universal language.” “You can go somewhere where they don’t understand what you’re saying, but you can play a song to get them clapping,” he said.
He does a lot of work to help people internationally, something that started in high school when he built churches in the Philippines on a mission trip.
“Once you start helping people and you see the need, it’s really hard to get it out your mind,” he said.
Through Orphan Grain Train, a charitable arm of the Lutheran Church that collects clothing, medical and school equipment, etc. to ship globally, Murphy has taken many opportunities to get supplies overseas.
Fifty volunteers, including Murphy, spent Thursday gathering about 1,000 chairs, desk and tables from Manhattan High School East Campus and Marlatt Elementary. The load, which will be sent to Haiti and India, filled three semi-trucks and three 24-foot trucks.
Mid-America Piano began sponsoring an orphanage in Russia last year. The donations help provide medical supplies and clean clothes. “Our dollar stretches really far outside of the country,” he said. “You can help a lot with very little money.”
It’s important for Murphy to remain humble. “I’m really not the type of guy that likes to be in the spotlight a lot,” he said. He hopes he can provide a spark for others. “I like to encourage people to help other people,” he said.
Murphy encouraged people to get involved with volunteering, saying it doesn’t matter whether it’s a local effort or extends nationwide or even globally. More information on the Orphan Grain Train can be found at ogt.org.