Music is Von Maur’s trademark at its department store at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody. On any given day, the sounds of skillfully played piano music carries throughout the three floors. The piano and the musician at the keys sit at the foot of the escalator bank on the first floor, with an area of comfortable chairs nearby.
Pianist and composer David Reeb plays a broad range of tunes from classical to Broadway during the midday hours four days a week. The Georgia native is marking his eighth year playing for Von Maur customers and store employees alike. His fingers move surely over the keys without a pause even when a shopper stops to ask for directions or make a comment on the music.
The Reporter talked with Reeb as he played at Von Maur. And, yes, he did play a request: “Clair de Lune” by Debussy and a jazz medley.
Q: When did you start playing the piano?
A: I was 4. My parents bought a piano for my 10-year-old sister so she could take lessons. I loved that piano right away and after hearing her play “Chopsticks,” I sat down and played it by ear.
I played “Chopsticks” a lot and my parents probably got tired of it. They told me to stay away from the piano and said it is not a toy. Finally, I sat down and played a song all the way through from memory, by ear. It was a song from church: “Jesus Loves Me.” They were impressed, and from then on, I could play when I wanted to.
I actually did not take lessons until I was 16. But I loved practicing and wanted to practice rather than play outside or do almost anything else.
Q: Did you have a preference for a certain genre of music once you started lessons?
A: Not particularly. I loved playing everything. I am classically trained from my private lessons and continued that love and expanded styles and genres to include jazz, standards, popular music and Broadway while training at Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia, and the University of Georgia.
Q: When did you begin playing at Von Maur?
A: I began in 2012. This is my eighth year playing for Von Maur. Right now, I am playing four days a week, though the schedule changes occasionally. Two other musicians also play here: John Ivey and Elizabeth Carey.
Q: Do you get a lot of requests as you play?
A: A few. People seem to like to take a break from shopping or wait to meet someone, so mostly they sit and listen. This is a good meeting place because of where I am located in the store. It’s easy to find.
When I do get requests, it’s usually a favorite song or it may be seasonal, like a special Christmas tune.
Q: There is no sheet music on your piano. Do you know all your repertoire by heart?
A: I have about 3,000 pieces in my head, from classical and jazz, to Broadway, standards through the decades and those popular today.
I keep some sheet music in my briefcase just in case, but mostly I practice new pieces all the time. Even though I play a lot every day, I still love to practice and add to my repertoire.
Q: Do you have occasion to meet people and play for them at Von Maur?
A: Sometimes people will ask me about playing for a private event they are planning. As for playing at the store, I did have a wonderful experience this past December. I had just finished my shift at Von Maur when a young woman in an evening gown and her parents stopped at the piano.
It turned out that she is the current Miss Georgia and her talent in the beauty pageant competition was singing. I played for her and she sang. She has a beautiful voice, and, in fact, she went on to win the talent competition in the most recent Miss America pageant.
Q: Where else do you play?
A: I play five nights a week for singers at open mic sessions and sing-alongs at Stone Mountain Public House, Olive Bistro in Midtown and Buckeye Room Bar & Grill in Chamblee. I also play at for weddings, receptions, parties and other private events, and I currently teach two students.
Q: You are also a composer. What have you written?
A: I have written music for several theater shows. One was “Teachers: The Musical.” It premiered in Acworth, Georgia to rave reviews.
I did a YouTube video for the Christmas season called “Mozart’s Two Front Teeth.” It’s a take-off in Mozart style of Christmas songs. Included are “Mozart Wants a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and “Mozart Got Runover By a Reindeer.” I made up a whimsical story for each one.
Q: What would Mozart think?
A: I think he would laugh. He had a sense of humor and played around with music like throwing in a lot of unexpected notes in his works.