Industry Voices: Sean McIlroy

In the first of a new series in which we’ll be speaking to people working within MI about the pressing issues of the day, Matt has been chatting with Sean McIlroy (Piano Auctions Ltd.) about a very important topic he is presenting a lecture on.

Hi Sean, how are things at Piano Auctions as we begin 2023?

2023 has started very well for us, having come off a record year in 2022. We are now collecting pianos for our first auction of 2023 on March 28th. Enquires are strong and we look forward to a good year despite the cost-of-living crisis, higher interest rates and the war in Ukraine.

It’s great to see that you are giving the IMIT (Institute of Musical Instrument Technology) lecture on Sunday. Tell us a little about the focus and what you’ll be covering.

I am giving a lecture to IMIT this Sunday which focuses on the laws relating to the sale and shipping of musical instruments that contain ivory and woods, and the restrictions which can affect this.

Why are these issues so important to the industry?

These issues are highly important to our industry, as the fines and penalties could easily cripple a business. The government have done little to inform people of these new laws.

As the worlds largest specialist auctioneers of pianos and keyboard instruments, we are very aware of the use of ivory in the past. In our December auction we had to register 49 pianos with ivory keyboards with DEFRA, and remove the ivory from 6 instruments to comply with the new Ivory Act 2018, which came into effect last June. Had we not done so, we could be facing fines totalling up to £13,750,000

Will your lecture be primarily focused on pianos, or is the content important for wider instrument makers?

My background is mainly from a piano point of view, but this lecture is applicable to all instruments that contain ivory or woods that are listed by CITES, as the law does not discriminate by instrument, but by the materials they are made from.

What are the challenges in complying with CITES?

There are many challenges in assessing the use of restricted materials in an instrument.

Is the rosewood Indian rosewood, or Brazilian rosewood? Are the key covers Ivory tusk, mammoth tusk, or a good quality simulated ivory? Are the key covers original or replaced at a later date?

In all cases, if you get it wrong without the correct paper work in place, there will be a fine or even worse a prison sentence.

You are invited, and encouraged, to attend Sean’s Zoom lecture, ‘Ivory and Timber, how to stay legal’, at 6pm on Sunday 22nd January.  As the kind invite received from Malcolm Smith (IMIT) is for MIA members only, please drop Matt an email for the joining details. 

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