I’ve often wondered, as a piano player myself, who is in charge of keeping all of these street pianos in tune? The old one in the middle of town in Fort Worth, the piano in the subway that you see in all of the amazing Youtube videos. The glimmering Steinway at the airport. Certainly, someone must keep these instruments from completely falling way out of tune, but who? I have on more than one occasion walked up to a street piano to try to play it and noticed that it had fallen completely out of tune since the last person sat to play a tune for the local community. who tunes these wonderful instruments set by the city for the enjoyment of the town folk? Well, that was a question that led me down a wonderful path into a mystery that I have wondered about for years
The first thing I discovered to my surprise was that in most cases it's actually not the city that places these pianos for local performing artists. Usually, the pianos are placed by a performing arts group or a local theater as a promotion for a play or as a charity for the city. 3 years ago in Boston, the performing arts group "Celebrity Series" placed painted pianos all over the city as a public installation called "Play Me I'm Yours
Over sixty street instruments were placed around the city and a lot of them had to be kept in tune. This is where Michael Wilson comes in he is a street piano tuner. He says in an interview with WBUR that most of the time when he encounters a piano outside, the poor instrument is badly out of tune. Pianos were never meant to stay outside and being left out for the elements take their toll. The elements can make pianos fall deeply out of tune. Once a piano has fallen this far out of tune bringing it back up into anywhere near a playable meter can be tough work. Often the strings need to be stretched and re-stretched in order to get used to that holding the tension. But when humidity and temperature begin to swell the wood, all bets are off.
In my travels in Fort Worth, I met another Piano Tuner who had tuned some pianos for a performing arts group and he said that the best thing to do in these situations is to come back multiple days in a row. That way if someone wants to come and play at the piano, it is at least In tune enough to carry a tune. he operates a small Tuning Service in Fort Worth Texas and is a young man who is just getting his business off the ground. If you have read any of my blog articles before you know that I love talking to people who are starting small businesses. When I asked him why he was performing this service for free he said he wanted to get his name out there and get the recognition for helping the local community promote the arts. You can find him tuning pianos for his day job and tickling the ivories at night.