Fortissimo Dueling Pianos Gets Loud on Grand Opening

Piano, Bar, Fortissimo, Music, Denver, Business, Downtwn

Sing me a song, piano man — that’s the idea behind Fortissimo Dueling Pianos, a new business in Denver serving as the area’s only piano bar. Having been inspired by similar businesses before it, like SingSing and Howl at the Moon, Fortissimo looks to serve the community around it by providing a place where anyone can come and experience “laughs, libations, and lowdown,” as it describes itself.

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The staff of Fortissimo riles up their guests, encouraging them to dance, sing and socialize over passively sitting down.

Sharon Scheminske, the owner of Fortissimo — with experience as an event coordinator and early childhood music teacher — managed to get the bar up and running quickly after acquiring it. Building off of the space that used to belong to Sip Ultra Lounge in the Spire Condos, most of the work was already complete to set the stage for her vision.

“I started looking into the purchase back in mid-January and we struck a deal shortly thereafter. We were working on due diligence, closing documents – all the things that you could imagine go into purchasing a business,” Scheminske said. “I don’t think there was a ton of construction. There was a bit of demolition and repair of the floor, expanded the bar by about 6 feet, but everything was already in place which was a huge appeal of the sale.”

Fortissimo is not a solo gig by any means. Dueling Pianos Road Show, which switched from performing at a set venue to private events during the pandemic to stay in business, was ready to settle down again for something more consistent and close to home. Once Sharon reached out, they ended up becoming a solid duet together and were able to set up a stable location for the performers without having to be on the road anymore.

Piano, Bar, Fortissimo, Caz, Music, Denver
Requests sit on the piano while players go through them and improvise in between songs.

On April 14, they held their official grand opening with a full house, showcasing their full line of talent, not just on stage but also behind the bar and in-house with their selection of cocktails and accompaniments. Audience participation is at the heart of the bar, and in addition to requesting songs for tips (or bribing the players to quit playing), there were also instruments like tambourines and cowbells being handed out, conga lines forming and even a rendition of The Time Warp which everyone joined in on — overall, a successful night for all those involved.

“We had a really good response from the community surrounding the venue,” said Scheminske. “We’ve had lots and lots of support from the people living in the condo building up above, from Visit Denver and the surrounding bars and restaurants – all the business owners down there seem to be very collaborative, so they’ve welcomed me and Fortissimo with open arms and that’s been wonderful.”

Fortissimo is more than just one act. Scheminske also mentioned that, as one of the newest businesses in Denver, people will find out about them over time, and they’re hoping to connect with conventions and patrons of the Performing Arts Center nearby, helping to bring in some consistent clientele. Ideas like themed nights and piano-backed karaoke are just some markers on the road map for Fortissimo. 

Piano, Bar, Fortissimo, Caz, Music, Denver, Eric, Sax, Saxophone
Erick Scheminske, left, plays “Careless Whisper” on saxophone to a captive audience with Caz Bzdek on piano.

Fortissimo is located at 891 14th St #110, Denver, CO and is open Mon- Thurs from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed on Sunday.

Dueling piano performances are from Thursday through the weekend.

All photos by Herman Guzman-Ibarra.

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