It’s the Wall Street Journal Calling!

David Ellis Answers the Call

Sitting at work last Saturday here at Ellis Piano, I was pondering whether we should have opened the store since so many people were stuck at home due to the winter storm that had just dumped ice all over our area. I was hoping that the three of us employees who had made it in had not done so in vain.

Suddenly, David Ellis comes rushing back to the Music Department. He announced excitedly that he had just received a call from a man who said he was a reporter with The Wall Street Journal. “He wants to interview me about my relationship with Nick and Terry Saban!” he said excitedly. The Sabans bought a beautiful Kawai grand piano from us a few years ago; we also just recently updated their Yamaha Player Piano. “Really?” I asked. “How do you know this man is for real? He could be some crazy person!” David replied, “I thought the same thing, so I asked him to email me any information that could prove his identity. He came through with some other articles that he has written and also documentation which verifies that he is definitely who he says he is. He is for real!”

“Wow!” I exclaimed. “When will he interview you?” David answered, “He wants to do it now! He said he was in Tampa and had been interviewing several of the team members about Nick Saban’s love of the pianos that he and Terry, his wife, own. He said it was common knowledge among the team members that Saban, even though he doesn’t play, has a special attachment to their pianos, especially the first one he bought for her early in their marriage. He said it was for a story that he was writing that was to come out on Monday, the day of the championship game against Clemson.”

As I was sitting there listening to this exciting news, I began to wonder why on earth a reporter from The Wall Street Journal would be interested in the fact that Nick Saban has a side to him that most people do not know about – a side that genuinely loves piano music! It was as if David read my mind, because he went on to say that the reporter himself was a musician. His love of music sparked his interest when he heard from team members and assistant coaches that the perfectionistic, serious-faced coach on the sidelines of the football field has a soft side and special place in his heart for the pianos that he has purchased over the years . . . so much so that, in his home, it is NOT the football that is the center of attention – it is the piano! In fact, the first thing  you see when you enter their home is their Yamaha player piano!

I asked David, “So, are you going to do the interview?” “I told him I would have to think about,” David replied. “The Sabans are protective of their privacy and I would not want to do anything to betray their trust in me to respect that privacy.” “Why don’t you text Mrs. Saban and ask her if it would be OK?” I suggested. “Text Mrs. Saban?!” David said with a “are you kidding” tone in his voice. “I’m on good terms with the Sabans but not texting terms. Plus, it is the Saturday before the National Championship game. I’m sure they are very busy.” And stressed out, too, I thought to myself. But something also told me that Mrs. Saban would not mind at all if David texted her. I encouraged him and said, “She won’t mind. She is the sweetest, most down-to-earth lady and has the utmost respect for you and Ellis Piano. She might actually WANT you to do the interview. After all, this IS The Wall Street Journal we are talking about!”

David thought for a few minutes and finally said, “OK. Here goes a text to Mrs. Saban.” David sent his text and within a few short minutes she responded by saying, “It’s OK!” She also told David to be sure and tell the reporter about the first piano that Nick ever bought for her – a Kohler and Campbell upright. They still have that piano in their home today. They considered giving it to Nick, Jr. for a graduation present a few years ago when he graduated from the University of Alabama. Nick, Jr. actually DOES play the piano, taking after his mother, but Nick, Sr. decided he just couldn’t part with it. He had too much sentimental attachment to the instrument. This turned out to be a good thing for David Ellis and Ellis Piano, because it was after this decision that Terry Saban picked up the phone and called David, introduced herself, and said that they were interested in purchasing another piano for their son; thus the relationship between Ellis Piano and the Sabans was born.

And now, several years later on a bitter cold Saturday afternoon in January, David Ellis receives another very unexpected call from a reporter with The Wall Street Journal named Ben Cohen, saying that he had heard from some of the assistant coaches that Ellis Piano was the place the Sabans trusted for their piano needs, and asking David if he could please share some stories about the Sabans with him for his upcoming article. After Terry Saban gave him permission to do so, David enthusiastically picked up the phone and called an eagerly awaiting reporter saying, “Ask away! I’ve got some stories!”

David’s stories are an integral part of this heart-warming article that unveils a surprising and delightful side of the man who someday may be hailed as the “Greatest Football Coach of All Time.” What a thrill for those of us in the Piano Industry to read that Nick Saban and his family have a passion for the piano just as we do. We are thankful to Ben Cohen and The Wall Street Journal for sharing this enlightening story with the world.

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