Remembering Bob Berkman: A Musical Journey with a Player Piano Enthusiast

By , September 13, 2023 1:48 pm

Over the last fifteen years, we have had the opportunity to connect with musicians, educators, and researchers worldwide through the sound archive, but none captured the enthusiasm of Bob Berkman and his Player Piano.

Remembering Bob Berkman

We met Bob and his partner, David Mavis who came down from Buffalo, New York through a connection with Ben Roth our sound digitization specialist. He was invited to speak back in 2013 at a Judaic festival that was held yearly at the FAU Libraries about his work creating Piano rolls for QRS and to highlight how a player piano worked with a bit of history. I was fortunate enough to be able to record a few videos prior along with his lecture.

The one thing that has never left my mind, however, is his kindness and generosity in sharing his musical knowledge with anyone he meets. Upon our meeting, he went to work setting up his Player Piano and explaining all the pieces as we asked if we could record behind-the-scenes footage before his lecture. And with a giant smile, he went about putting together his Player Piano talking about it as he put the pieces together assessing the foot pedals and gears to make sure his piano was performance ready.

Over the years, Bob would reach out periodically asking for a recording, or if we had a copy of the video we created years ago that he could have. I never forgot his kindness and often found myself researching old newspapers for information about musicians and record labels, finding a Player Piano ad or two and compiling a file to send him which he was always glad to receive.

Unfortunately, Bob Berkman passed away this summer in July from a serious illness at the age of sixty-eight.  Here, at the Recorded Sound Archives, in celebration of National Piano Month, we would like to honor the memory of a wonderful human who shared immensely his love of music with others and all that would listen.

Below you will find a link to our website where you can listen to four albums by Bob Berkman. Along with a few short clips we recorded in 2013 during Bob’s time in Florida.

Visit our website to listen to Piano roll recordings compiled and played by Bob Berkman:


Bob Berkman explains how the pianola works

Bob Berkman Sets Up the Pianola

Bob Berkman on Pianola History and Performance Excerpt.

Blog Posts

Can “Boardwalk Empire” era Jewish piano rolls still find an Audience?

Bob Berkman: Nostalgia with a Twist

If you read this post and it touched your heart, please consider donating to Buffalo String Works ( which is an organization creating accessible, youth-centered music education for those in the Western New York Community where Bob lived.

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