Hello again. It is nice to see you back again to follow along with our journey around our hometown, Rochester, NY for part 8.
Today we would like to follow-up on our post of March 8th about “Corbett’s Glen Park”. We mentioned at the end of the post that as we were leaving we happened to meet a man that was outside picking up tree limbs in his yard.
Maybe some of you can recall events or situations in life that happen and later know that something special just occurred. Well, this was one of those times some might call a co-incidence but from our experience we would prefer to refer to as a God-incidence. Little did we know that a home viewable through the carved stone tunnel would reveal a man that can only be described as one history and storybooks talk about. He was out by his little shed picking up limbs when we noticed what appeared to be miniature train tracks. As our eyes connected I asked if it was a model train set. Immediately he started walking toward us, hand extended with such a welcoming warmth that just exuded feelings of, let’s talk awhile. And talk we did.
He introduced himself as Jeff Vincent and our conversation just flowed. He shared with us the history behind the miniature train tracks which had been hand crafted by his father out of channel iron many years past. From here he unveiled the train engine and its cars, also crafted by his father in 1:8 scale, originally powered by gasoline but later modified by him to electric. He shared how much joy the train set generated when his grandchildren would come and ride for hours on end. The tracks circled his property in quite an elaborate formation. As he was sharing the stories he kept smiling with a joy that was contagious.
As we talked he showed us a rather large calliope on wheels which he was restoring. For those not familiar, a calliope, sometimes called a calliaphone Is an instrument that runs off air, controlled by vacuum pumps and uses music rolls operated in similar manner to a piano roll in a player piano, mechanically operating the keys.
He must have gathered a sense of our fascination with these type instruments and this is when he asked if we would like to see the rest of his collection of instruments, to which without hesitation we responded with a resounding YES. So, into the 19th-century home originally built by the man for whom Corbett’s Glen is named. Were we ever in awe.
Jeff and his wife Debbie are incredible collectors of antique organs of every size and shape one could possible imagine. Throughout the conversation, he often reflected with joy that their sons, Brandon and Derek, have learned appreciation for music by growing up in a home where music was such a key interest.
A pipe organ, which once graced the choir loft of a Geneva church in the 1920s, dominates the Vincent’s’ dining room/parlor along with 14 other barrel organs and a grand player piano resting elegantly in a corner of their living room. Another room is dominated by other types of organs including ones used years ago by organ grinders who sported the little capuchin monkey on a leash that scurried around to the music inviting handouts of food bits and change. No monkey business here; this was a man who knew his organs. Some of the monkey organs in his parlor once roamed the streets of Europe and New York City strapped around the necks of young organ grinders who rented them from their owners for a few pence a day. For a little extra, the organ grinders could rent a monkey or some other curiosity to attract attention and a few more pennies for their hat. The monkey organs were popular from 1830 to 1930.
At one point I asked what it was he did prior to retirement and he smiled noting (pun intended) “I was just a piano tuner”. It was obvious to us this very humble man was much more than “…just a piano tuner”. In our opinion, we were in the company of a well-versed genius.
“Each organ has its own personality and its own stories,” Jeff said. He joyfully went over each instrument with thoroughness and humor, playing each one with the expertise only an accomplished musician could do, not just a “piano tuner”. We learned he had graduated with an upper level degree in music toward his goal of being a music teacher.
Asked how he got interested in music he shared that when he was 5 years old his family was visiting Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts when he came upon an organ grinder and his monkey. The music held him spellbound and knew this was a field he wanted to know more about. He lovingly credited his parents with teaching him as a young boy to pursue things that held one’s interest and he did just that. It wasn’t until Mr. Vincent had graduated from college that he began his collection.
He cited stories of his travels and appearances at local festivals displaying different pieces of his collection and especially delighting crowds playing music by hand cranking an organ grinder strapped around his neck while a mechanical toy monkey sat atop blowing bubbles. He mused at how one summer he hooked up one of the small hand crank organs using a belt and pulley to the grandkids “merry pump-around” so with each pump of the legs by the kids the energy created would cause the instrument to play. He said it was a great learning experience for the kids because they found that by speeding up or slowing down they could create music and songs. Is this not cool?!
It was obvious Mr. Vincent enjoys what he does along with sharing his collection with those interested in beautiful pieces of history.
So, if you are ever about the Corbett’s Glen Park nature park and hear musical sounds of bells, drums, tambourines and piano keys in orchestrated renditions of classical works or spirited, patriotic tunes, chances are it’s coming from Jeff and Debbie’s home.
So there you have it, a story of a man that pursued his interest and is leaving behind a legacy of lives impacted in incredible ways that one can only imagine. We hope you come back to hear more stories of people that make a difference in the world.
Here’s a little video of our time with Jeff Vincent – “just a piano tuner”,
More tidbits about Rochester NY that may cause a chuckle,
- The penalty for jumping off a building is death.
- While riding in an elevator, one must talk to no one, and fold his hands while looking toward the door.
- A person may not walk around on Sundays with an ice cream cone in his/her pocket.
- It is against town ordinances to camp out on your own land more than 72 hours a month. If you want to camp out for 2 weeks you need a permit, which can only be obtained once a year.
If you missed one of the previous parts just hover your cursor over one of these series on “Rochester, NY – Our Back-Yard part 1“, “Rochester, NY – Our Back-Yard part 2” , “Rochester, NY – Our Back-Yard part 3”, “Rochester, NY – Our Back-Yard part 4”, “Rochester, NY – Our Back-Yard part 5”, “Rochester, NY – Our Back Yard part 6” or “Rochester, NY – Our Back Yard part 7” and you’ll be up to speed. Please remember if you get lost just click on the “USA Through Our Eyes” heading and you will be brought back to the home page.
Enjoy and we’ll see you back in a couple days.