A reunion decades in the making took place in Guelph on Tuesday, as Jim Hayward sat down at a piano he hadn’t played since 1960.

Back then, Hayward was a Grade 12 student at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute. He’d moved to live with his grandmother in Guelph after a close friend died by suicide.

A budding musician, Hayward played the euphonium and upright bass at Guelph CVI. He enjoyed it, but missed the piano-playing he’d been able to do in his previous home.

Noticing that his new high school had a grand piano, Hayward worked up the courage to ask the school principal if he could try it out.

“He looked at me very sternly and said ‘You’re not going to play any rock and roll, are you?’” Hayward remembers.

After assuring the principal that he would stick to the classics, Hayward was given permission to play the piano. Fifty-eight years and countless pianos later, he still remembers how much he enjoyed that particular instrument.

“It brought joy at a time when (I was) extremely depressed,” he says.

“You really felt that when you were playing it, you were almost wearing that piano. You could express yourself very well with it.”

Hayward’s interest in the school’s piano reignited about a decade ago, when Guelph CVI celebrated its 150th anniversary. He visited the school during an open house, and was astonished to find that the piano was gone.

“I had just assumed … that it would always be there,” he says.

Nobody in the office knew anything about the school having a grand piano. Hayward eventually tracked down a music teacher who remembered its existence, but only knew that it was “in storage somewhere.”

More recently, Hayward started making inquiries of other people who might know something about the piano’s whereabouts. He eventually got into contact with a local piano tuner, who set him on the right path.

As Hayward learned, the piano was at some point moved to John F. Ross CVI. It later ended up at the River Run Centre, where it remains to this day.

After giving it a whirl on Tuesday, he decided he would donate money to restore the piano, ensuring its usage well into the future.

“I’m delighted that it’s going to give a lot of pleasure and joy to other people,” he says.

With reporting by Maleeha Sheikh