Warren Shadd, the CEO of Shadd Pianos & Keyboard, USA, is the first African-American piano manufacturer in the world. Now a top player in his field, Shadd’s pianos are in high demand and have been featured everywhere from concerts to top television series.
Shadd, a Washington, D.C. area native and Howard University graduate, was a child prodigy drummer who played his first concert at the age of 4. As word of his talent spread, he was the subject to ugly incidents of racism. One of the most chilling came as an eight-year-old in 1964, when someone made violent threats against his parents ahead of a Jazz In Concert series he was set to play at Washington’s Watergate hotel.
In another story Shadd recalled, he played a concert with his mother standing on stage and carrying a gun in her purse to head off any threats.
As a professional drummer, Shadd has played alongside several greats such as Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, and his aunt, Shirley Horn, among countless others. As a piano technician, he’s tuned or repaired the pianos of Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, Quincy Jones, and Smokey Robinson, among other people and entities who used his services.
In 2003, Shadd took a leap of faith and began his company without the help of a big investor. After working his way up through the years with several setbacks and fears that the venture would fail, Shadd sold his first piano in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since.
The hit live music competition series American Idol has featured a Shadd piano on its set. Shadd’s pianos are also the official set pianos for the hit Fox television series, Empire. Congressman John Conyers has also used a Shadd piano for the Congressional Black Caucus Jazz Issue Forum and Concert, and gospel legend Richard Smallwood also employs Shadd pianos.
Shadd is also the inventor of the Interactive Shadd Piano, a high-tech piece of hardware that allows for distance learning and other innovative uses. It is currently being used at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, D.C.