Today a Canadian company called ‘Westbank’ owns more Fazioli pianos than any other organization in the world.   They have changed the landscape of top tier piano sales around the globe, and contributed to the art of fine piano making in the most beautiful and unique way imaginable.   Who is ‘Westbank’, and how did this great partnership come to be?

My name is Manuel Bernaschek, and I founded Showcase Pianos in August of 2007 with my wife Judy.   We are proud to represent Fazioli in our province, an Italian brand of pianos that has become widely recognized for producing the absolute finest pianos in the world.   The store was officially opened in November of 2007 and within a month we sold our first Fazioli to a lovely Taiwanese family.






Early in 2008 we received a mailout that announced the construction of the new Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver, and offered people a chance to own a piece of it since a portion of the building was to be sold as condominiums.   I immediately recognized this as the perfect potential client for a Fazioli piano, a high end location with excellent visibility amongst a group of people that would be more likely to be able to afford purchasing one themselves.   So, during my first year of business I had two main goals:  (1) to get the ultra luxurious Canadian magazine NUVO to write an article about Fazioli, and (2) to get the Shangri-La to buy a Fazioli for their lobby.

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Both of these goals took many phone calls, voice mails, and emails.   I’m sure I contacted both companies upwards of 60 times.   NUVO printed their article in the Summer Editionof their magazine that year, and I kept working at contacting the new General Manager of the Shangri-La Hotel, Stephen Darling.   I offered to drop off some brochures at their temporary office across the street from the construction site, and I brought baked goods as gifts so that they would remember me.   By now I could tell that the manager was very appreciative of the treats, but was no longer interested in discussing the piano, so he directed me to owners – the true decisionmakers on the piano – a company called Westbank Development Corporation.    Just as the door was closing I squeezed one last question:  “Who do I ask for at Westbank?  I just need a name.”.     The answer came just as the door closed: “Judy Leung”.

Soon I was in contact with Westbank, and I brought some brochures to their office together with some unforgettable baked goods, including Thomas Haas’ very epic ‘Sparkle’ cookie – and the coma-inducing ‘Home Made You Know What’ from Butter Baked Goods.   Then on Friday the 12th of September of 2008, Westbank’s owner Ian Gillespie and company CFO Judy Leung visited our tiny 1,500 sq ft store on West Broadway to talk about what kind of Fazioli piano we could put at the Shangri-La hotel in Vancouver.

Although I was strongly recommending them to choose a wood finished piano that exactly matched the wood on the walls of the lobby, the interior designer was insistent on having a black piano – but allowed for the inside of the rim to be finished in the wood veneer that I was suggesting.   The owners agreed, and you can see the beautiful result in the photo on the delivery day.

The piano arrived into Vancouver with enough time to showcase it at a concert in honour of Fazioli factory founder Paolo Fazioli who was in town after visiting the NAAM Show in Los Angeles.   The concert was held at the Pan Pacific Hotel on Saturday the 17th of January, and Mr. Fazioli was interviewed in front of a full audience of over 200 people by Hollywood actor Bruce Greenwood.

On Sunday the 18th of January, we delivered the piano to the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel – during the pre-opening staff training and the last few bits of construction – a piano delivery that caught the attention of CBC’s “The National”.       Photographer Scott Adolph caught this candid shot of Paolo Fazioli meeting Shangri-La GM Stephen Darling for the first time, and it captures how nicely the wood on the inside of the rim matches the wood on the walls of the lobby.   The hotel opened to the public officially on the 24th of January, 2009.


Ian, Judy, and the team at Westbank were happy with the result in the Shangri-La hotel lobby, and had another project on the go:  The Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel.  It was due to open 13 months later on the 4th of February 2010 – just in time for the Olympics which started in Vancouver on the 12th of February.   This time, Westbank was willing to expand the piano budget a little to create something more unique.  The architect for the building was again James K.M. Cheng, the same architect that designed the Shangri-La Vancouver and went on to design the one in Toronto as well.   On Wednesday the 22nd of April, Project Manager Renata Li reached out to me and connected me to their lobby designers, m+g+b architects, which – at the time – consisted of Steve McFarlane, Michael Green, Michelle Biggar, who created a special design for the underneath of the lid to go with a piano in Satin White.

The piano was placed towards the east end of the lobby lounge, not far from the bar area.   As it turns out, this was not the most ideal positioning of the piano, and the lobby lounge – together with the Fairmont Fazioli – was later revisited and it became the Origami Fazioli.

The Fairmont Pacific Rim also made one of their signature suites ‘Fazioli’-themed.   The walls are decorated with photos of different Fazioli pianos, and are hung from the ceiling using piano wire.   Other elements of the construction of the piano are used in the suite.


On the 10th of May, 2011 Westbank Project Manager Renata Li reached out again, this time to talk about another Shangri-La hotel on the other side of Canada.   Ian Gillespie asked if the piano could be used to honour legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.   Her album Blue released in 1971 is regarded as one of the most iconic albums of that era and the song “My Old Man” in particular, showcases her compositional talents on the piano.  I reached out to Herbie Hancock’s manager and shared the idea with them, who promptly got me connected.   Joni Mitchell was gracious enough to allow Westbank to engrave the opening stanza of “My Old Man” on the piano lid, with the sheet music embroidered on the piano cover.

On Friday the 5th of April, 2013 Paolo Fazioli visited Toronto to dedicate the one-of-a-kind custom Fazioli made for the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, and area that only has ever seen a handful of Fazioli pianos.  This piano is completely finished in light Oak and highlights the culture of great Canadian artists, which could not be represented more purely than Joni Mitchell.  At a media event on Friday the 5th of April, Vancouver based 5-year-old Isabelle XinYi Wang performed on the piano.  Wang is a piano prodigy that also performed at Carnegie Hall later that same month.   Isabelle was joined by Japanese-Canadian pianist Aisa Sayama.


Just a few months later, in July of 2013, Project Manager Renata Li reached out again, this time looking for something that would evoke the material of some quintessential 18th century piano, but without styling it in a neoclassical or romantic way – rather doing a modern evocation of an old piano. The Douglas Fir wood was chosen to be the veneer, but with the grain going at a 45 degree angle instead of being the usual ‘horizontal’ or ‘vertical’ direction. The architect on this building was Gregory Henriquez, who is interviewed in the video here where he speaks about where the ideas came from for the piano, and the lobby that surrounds it.

During the design of the piano, they said they wanted the underneath of the lid to be ‘shiny like a mirror’.   I mentioned to them that it’s usually very high gloss and a reflection can be clearly seen. They said “No, we would like an actual mirror under the lid.” You can see the result, it’s fantastic – the chrome looks beautiful with the Douglas Fir wood. This time we asked the factory to follow a little bit more closely the production of the piano with cameras, so you can see some video of the production of this actual piano at the Fazioli factory near Venice, Italy.

On Friday the 31st of July the Telus Garden Fazioli was delivered to the lobby of the building on West Georgia – becoming the most visible piano in Vancouver.

The Gillespie Home

The home of Ian Gillespie is modest and modern. It was designed by James K.M. Cheng, and has everything that a family of today would want – except a piano.   By this time, I was dreaming of working with Ian to create something very special and ornate – but the Gillespie home was simple and minimalistic, with only enough space for the tiniest baby grand Fazioli. Ian contacted the architect who suggested a beautiful Cherry wood veneer in high polish. The piano was delivered to their home on the 20th of December in 2016.

The Butterfly

Westbank commissioned renowned Vancouver architect Bing Thom to design a residential building downtown at Nelson & Burrard.   Construction started in 2018.  When Bing Thom passed away in 2016, the firm was renamed ‘Revery Architecture’.    Westbank named the project “The Butterfly”, in honour of the working title that Bing Thom came up with for the concept.   Westbank felt it was a name well suited to the project because of the transformative effect it will have on Vancouver’s skyline.   When they first began work on The Butterfly residential high-rise, Ian’s only direction for Revery was: ‘Take my breath away’.    This became Revery’s inspirational challenge.

Revery’s website explains:  “From the beginning of our creative process on The Butterfly, we sought to create an environment that would influence people, their perceptions, and their experiences.”

Revery’s principal-in-charge is architect Venelin Kokalov, who designed the Butterfly Piano – a hand-built Fazioli.   Kokalov sought to capture the same experiential qualities inherent in the design of the Butterfly tower itself.  The lightness of the piano’s legs and rails echoes the Butterfly’s open garden breezeways – while its delicately sculpted geometry evokes the soft undulations of the tower’s skin, abstracted from the surrounding landscape.

The Butterfly piano’s hand carved wooden legs hide a metal skeleton underneath to be able to handle the weight.

In June of 2017, I travelled with the Gillespie Family to Venice so as to visit the Fazioli Factory.  One group was also joined by another family member: Lukas Dong, the renowned filmmaker/videographer.   Lukas and his team followed us around the factory, filming Ian Gillespie and piano factory founder Paolo Fazioli as they toured the factory.   I was impressed to see how quickly and effortlessly he filmed what was happening, and how the result was truly a work of art.  You can see the final video below, ‘Westbank X Fazioli’.

The Butterfly piano was on display at Showcase Pianos and is now on display in the lobby of the Shaw Tower in Vancouver.

The Lunch Photo Story

At lunch at the Cavour Restaurant near the Fazioli factory in Sacile, there was a moment of humour when Ian Gillespie and Paolo Fazioli sat beside each other for lunch, and someone was wanting to take a photo of them.   Paolo Fazioli automatically goes into full smile, whereas Ian Gillespie’s standard pose is ‘expressionless’, which is evident in the first photo.   Someone pointed out that the expressions didn’t match, so Mr. Fazioli tried to even out his expression and make it more neutral.   Sensing that Paolo Fazioli was having trouble with it, Ian Gillespie helped him by saying “Mr. Fazioli:  Imagine that your factory is dirty!”.    Immediately Mr. Fazioli grimaced and the camera clicked.   Despite trying to get them both to have a neutral expression, finally the one chosen was the photo where both were smiling a little.

Another little story that I will never forget was when I was coming from Vancouver and changing planes in London to fly to Venice.   I had to change to the Gatwick airport, and this time I chose to make the change by means of the Gatwick Express train.   Normally this is an express train that travels very fast with very few stops, but as it turns out, there was a computer error and the Gatwick Express needed to stop at every single station on the way to the Gatwick airport.   As we went along, it became obvious that I wasn’t going to make it in time for my flight – the train would arrive just a few minutes after the departure of the flight.  Instead of being stressed about it, I thought I would just relax and enjoy the ride.

When the train arrived at the airport, I made my way to security, at which point I discovered that my flight said “Boarding Now” – – – at which point I got very excited, they moved me to the front of the security line, and I got running. Running, and running for a very long distance. After a few minutes of running, my body was telling me “Stop running now”, but I kept running.   I was so incredibly thirsty and my mouth was so dry that my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth.   I got to the gate to see the last few people in the line up to board the plane, I bought a water from the pop machine and obliterated it, and boarded the plane. To my embarrassment, as I boarded, I saw that Ian Gillespie and his family were directly in the row behind me. My face was literally beat red due to the running, and my shirt was soaking wet and no longer tucked into my pants. I said ‘Hello’, put my bags away, and went to the washroom to dry off with some paper towels, and dress myself again.  Trying to play it cool as if nothing happened, I went back to my seat and after a few moments I pulled out my phone to see the weather in Vancouver, which was terrible. As a way to start a conversation and forget about my mad dash for the gate, I leaned back to show Ian’s son Sean the weather in Vancouver, and when I pointed to the screen I was surprised to see that I couldn’t hold my finger still as my whole hand was shaking due to the crazy run. I think I need more exercise!