Player pianos have come a long way since they were invented in the late 1800s, but I came across an old-school system that merges the old with the new in a really cool way. It turns out the owner is a retired (old school) player piano technician who had his Mason & Hamlin upright with …
Over the weekend, I spent a full day at a client’s house regulating his beautiful Bösendorfer grand piano.
What the heck IS regulation, do you ask? To be honest, when writing the copy for this very website, I struggled coming up with a definition for regulation more than any of my other services.
Part of that is because although it is a critical part of what allows a piano to feel and sound its best, regulation is just not something most people have heard of, kind of like my sister’s former job title of “actuarial analyst”. But it’s also because there’s way more to it than what my distilled one sentence definition of “adjusting the many parts of the playing mechanism, called the action, in order to make the touch consistent and optimally responsive” implies.
Back in June of 2004, I moved 2,782 miles from Ithaca, NY to the Portland, OR area to attend School of Piano Technology for the Blind (formerly the Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology), colloquially known as the Piano Hospital, in Vancouver, WA.
A year later in 2005, in what is to this day one of the wackiest coincidences of my life, Casey Harris made the same journey from Ithaca, NY and joined me as a fellow piano tech student.
Now a bona fide rock star as the keyboard player for the hit band the X Ambassadors, Casey no longer tunes pianos for a living, but is on the road for what seems to be 362 out of 365 days of the year, touring and performing with his band. This past weekend, in Portland for a show headlining the Widmer Brothers Oktoberfest in downtown Portland, Casey and his brother Sam, the lead singer of the band, generously detoured (ha! puns) to the ‘Couve for a few hours to perform as part of a benefit show for the Piano Hospital.
Over the past week, I have spent the majority of my time immersed in preparations for the annual Ten Grands concert, a benefit for noted musician and composer Michael Allen Harrison’s Snowman Foundation.
In a time when arts education is being affected by budget cuts in schools nationwide, the Snowman Foundation is dedicated to bringing access to music education to the Portland, OR community and beyond. As someone greatly shaped by having had ample access to music education, via private lessons in piano, voice, clarinet, as well as summer music camp attendance and participation in school choirs, I am a firm believer in the value of learning music and the Snowman Foundation’s mission.
Therefore, I could not have been more excited and enthusiastic about being the designated piano tuner for the foundation’s annual preeminent event, in which ten gorgeous Steinway grand pianos are situated on one stage for a concert featuring a variety of local artists, ranging from ridiculously talented middle-school guitarists to renowned recording artists such as Tom Grant.
Around the same time I inadvertently went on a blog posting hiatus in September, I had the opportunity to go to Denver, CO, both for work and to visit family. I didn’t plan for extracurriculars beyond said work and family, so it was a pleasant surprise when my co-worker called with the following invite:
Him: Hey, whatcha doing tomorrow night?
Me: Uh. Hanging out with my family? I think? Why?
Him: Well, we have 4 tickets to go see Peter Gabriel at the Red Rocks tomorrow, but there’s only 3 of us. Would you like to come and be our fourth?
(I must be honest here, I am not terribly familiar with Peter Gabriel’s ouevre because his dancing claymation chicken video freaked me out in the ’80s and I never bothered to pay a whole lot of attention to him beyond that. Anyways.)