My decision to learn my father’s trade seemed on the surface to have come quite from nowhere really yet it has left me puzzled as to why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. A credit I think to my parents that they allowed their children to carve their own path through life.
However as I discussed the idea more and more it made more and more sense. Dad started tuning when I was a baby and so I have grown up with the trade being a normal part of everyday life. Small things come to mind straight away. The click of his piano case as he put tools away. Random pianos that would find their way into the house: pianolas, victorian square pianos and ornate mirror topped uprights that became part of our furniture for months on end (much to mum’s annoyance!). Spare parts that we made games and art work out of and tuning forks that we would bite to feel the A 440hz vibrate through our heads.
On occasion I did odd little jobs for my dad. When I was young, I would occasionally spend time in the piano workshop he used to work at on a Saturday morning, where they had a huge flop eared rabbit living outside, and I sometimes found myself painstakingly polishing piano pedals with Brasso. Once older I spent a couple of weeks being his personal chauffer, driving him to each of his jobs. Turns out blind piano tuners make for horrible back seat drivers…
I come from a musical family. My mum is a music teacher and my two sisters both perform. Growing up I learnt the violin, the bassoon and bits on the piano and guitar however I really did not like to perform. And so at 17 I gave up my musical pursuits in favour for dance, arts and crafts. It is only in the last year – 12 years on, that I have started to pick my music up again. And so I believe that through my life I took Dad’s trade for granted. It was normalised and my passions and hopes for the future became rooted in a traditional educational background.
Life speeds by very quickly indeed….
Fast forward and here I am, a mother of one with a degree in French and International Development and 9 years working in retail. I wouldn’t change any of my decisions. I am who I am because of what I have done thus far. However something was missing. Something that would bring together my appreciation of craft and music and my experience in the work place. I wished to bring all of me together, in unison.
And so my desire to become a piano technician came not from nowhere, but from all around me, I just had not noticed it.
What it the piano is, (in the words of my Dad as I couldn’t hope to put it better myself) is a:
‘wonderful piece of precision engineering whose primary purpose is as a vehicle for artistic expression’
What the piano means will be different to everyone and to every piano depending on its own, unique personality…
Imagine the piano. It is old – early 1900’s perhaps. It has been passed down through several generations. Its keys stick sometimes, it sounds pretty out of tune but it has seen a lot and it sits there proud in the corner of the room creating a level of comfort and reassurance, enjoyment and therapy for most who interact with it. Sit down in front of it and it will tell you a story…
…A slight crack runs along the lid where the piano sustained damage during the war and two scars on the front show where candle sticks were once fixed, only to be stripped off and melted down. Chipped and tarnished ivory keys prove it has been well used and there’s that annoying sticking key which has never been quite right since your dad spilled milk over the piano as a child. On top sits framed photos of your family and your parents. Your mum always tells of their first date and of dad’s bad piano renditions of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. Dust of years gone by piles up ontop of tiny screws and felts and look under the lid and you will see dates and signatures pencilled onto the back of several keys. Piano technicians of old leaving their mark.
You’ve been told your mum used to rock you to sleep as a baby while she sat in front of the piano and looking closer a faded little letter ‘C’ is etched on the key top, so you would never forget where to start…
The piano can be seen not only as a man made mechanism to create sound, but also as a connection. To the past and to future endeavours, to family, to history, music and creativity. I believe that whatever it is that connects you to it, the piano is worth looking after. It is with this philosophy that I started my journey.