How to be an Innovative Leader in Artistic Excellence for 45 years

Edelweiss’s story is one of family, friendship and invention. It is a tale that spans a lifetime and is set to span at least two more, with thanks to the work of a son and grandson.

As with many a great story of an innovative leader, it starts with love… and death.

A wife’s love for her husband’s playing of classical and folk music while she worked at home. And the death of the man who used to tune their piano.

‘Why don’t you visit his wife?’ Mrs Norman had asked.

‘His wife?’

‘The piano tuner’s wife’

And with that, Mr John Roy Norman, a physicist at Hinxton Hall Research Centre, just outside Cambridge, pulled on his shoes and stepped out of his house.

What does it mean to be
an Innovative Leader?

Having bought the piano tuner’s tools, Mr Norman’s next task was to read every book he could find. He had met his wife, as a student 14 years before. She was used to his studying.

A man of innovation. It wasn’t long before he had to come up with a name for an electronic tuner that he’d made using tuning forks and his own acute hearing.

‘We thought 1066 a well-known date,’ says Mrs Norman, ‘not easily forgotten. And of course, it fitted well with our name. What with it being a Norman conquest!’

And so, ‘1066 Pianos’ was born and Mr Norman, who by now had started tuning pianos in school concert halls and private rooms, was getting noticed as reliable. And as you know, a good piano tuner is like gold dust.

Mr Norman reduced his hours at the research centre. Then, within 6 months, gave up his job altogether.

‘It was a tremendous adventure to be entirely on our own.’

-Mrs Norman, 2020

The reinvention of their brand didn’t stop there. He was a man of ideas. Interesting propositions that he could sit and discuss into the night with his father in law, Harold Francis, a local cabinet maker.

Mr Norman had set up a profitable piano tuning business and was in high demand. But it broke his heart to see the restoration these pianos needed.

With only so many hours in the day. He sold his business.

The family brought a piano that needed fixing up into the house and onto the kitchen table. The couple and their cabinet maker set to work.

With that restored and sold, they bought two more.

Soon they had moved into their own premises.

Mr Norman refused to see pianos as untouchable, complex machines. As a physicist, he understood that the smallest of changes can have the most dramatic of effects.

And with that knowledge passed down through his family and business associates, the self-playing piano was born.

A Family

‘It was my grandfather who gave me my first ‘this is what a piano looks like’ kind of lesson’

-Ross Norman, Sales and Marketing Executive, 2019

Innovation means different things to different people. To me it is looking at something, a piano, that has not changed for 100 years, and not seeing perfection. Instead, seeing a project.

1066 pianos are still breathing new life into antique pianos and even fitting them with their self-play system. But since 2008 they have also been working under the subsidiary name Edelweiss.

1066 was already responsible for building the smallest grand piano in the world. But when the recession hit, they noticed that their customer base had changed.

People all over the world were realising that no home was complete without a finely-crafted grand piano.

Edelweiss was set up to manufacture pianos to suit any discerning buyer’s budget. But also, to launch the most up-market of today’s breed of self-playing pianos.

Exquisite to the ear. There is no need to actually play yourself.

Stunning to see. They can be extensively customised and a few have left the building for over 1.2 million pounds.

How to tick all the
boxes in Leadership

Mr Roy Norman, the man, the husband, the father; the business owner’s core values permeate through everything.

  • It’s why his family remember him so fondly
  • It’s why Edelweiss pour their passion for good craftsmanship and improving perfection into every new project
  • It’s why customers hold them up above any competitors for their friendly, efficient service as any testimonial will show
  • It’s why, after all these years, this family are still working alongside each other and playing music together

It’s a good story: the story of Edelweiss. But more than that, it is clarity. It is understanding. Perfection isn’t bought; it’s made over a lifetime… or three.

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