I suppose I was destined for a career in pianos as I grew up around pianos in various states of repair since my father and uncles were all in the piano business. Initially their training began at the Ontario School for the Blind as eye-sight problems afflicted every male of their generation.
Tuning was a skill they could hone as their hearing and other senses were already heightened. Since my eyesight was fine, I assisted them from a very early age, in literally hundreds of tunings, helping to take the piano apart and keep track of their tools needed for tuning. Once I had my driver’s license, I also got to chauffeur them around – much to my Aunts’ delight.
While I can’t say I aspired to do the work of “blind men”, I did take a great interest in how the piano worked and fell in love with the instrument itself. Eventually, I joined with my father and one Uncle in the piano business running a successful repair and restoration shop in a small town in Ontario. This lead to learning piano design – not just replacing parts but improving on the tone
and touch of many fine, older pianos.
Due to the necessity of having the piano in-tune at a certain stage of its rebuilding process in order to complete the jobs, I did learn the actual art of aural tuning. My redesigned grand pianos went to music halls. At one point, a small but exclusive concert venue owner felt that the person who rebuilt the piano should maintain it. With a couple of exceptions, where my Uncle was double-booked or unwell, my first paid tunings were at this concert venue. Within 2 years I was in-demand for tuning and therefore concentrated on perfecting the art of tuning. I was invited to look after all tuning and piano work for Wilfred Laurier University and their concert hall in Waterloo, Ontario. It was there that I tuned for Anton Kuerti’s original recordings of the Schubert Sonatas (am I dating myself?) 25 years ago.
Eventually I expanded the piano business I took over from my father to include new piano sales.
After having worked a few times in the Caribbean, I loved the climate (who wouldn’t?) and worked to establish a piano technology course in St. Lucia. During my time on-island, Black Entertainment Television (BET) began producing a jazz festival. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve tuned at every, single, St. Lucia Jazz Festival since its inception 29 years ago. This event has led to working at several other festivals in the Caribbean including Bermuda, Anguilla, and Grand Cayman which just so happen to be during the winter months. Who could say no to that?
After returning to Canada, I moved to Calgary to work for the local Steinway Dealer, Irene Besse Keyboards. In the 13 years I worked with Irene, I went from tuner to Chief Concert Technician to Service Manager and eventually, son-in-law. Currently, you can find me tuning at Arts Commons (since 2007), for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra as well as many other events that happen at the centre, The University of Calgary Department of Music and Rosza Centre, The Conservatory at Mount Royal University and Bella Concert Hall, University of Lethbridge, many area piano teachers, and likely, in your home too!