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How do half a dozen people effectively document a convention event in a few pages of this Journal? They don’t. It’s impossible to do it justice. Too much goes on over too wide a space and in a relatively short span of time. The best we can give you are written impressions of a few Institute classes and photographs that provide small tastes of a learning and fellowship experience that is unique for each attendee.
This year’s convention stood out in several ways. Council delegates voted to remove themselves from PTG governance and adopt an advisory role. Worldwide members of the International Association of Piano Technicians and Builders provided an international flair. PTG threw itself a 60th anniversary party. And, sadly, two of the Guild’s prestigious awards were given posthumously to members recently lost.
The Journal staff thanks those who sent us their convention impressions for this feature. Thanks also to Keith Akins, RPT, for contributing photographs.
The 60th Annual PTG Convention
& Technical Institute
The St. Louis Institute Experience
The Harmonic Series
Whether we think about it or not, our work depends on how well we can use it. We must deviate pitches away from nature to fit into our world of temperament. Attempting to put aspects of this into a nutshell is challenging, but I was able to attend a few classes that accomplished this at the St. Louis convention.
One aspect was taken on by Jim Geiger, RPT. In his class, “Basic Tuning Theory,” Mr. Geiger summed up the basics of a vibrating string, the harmonic series, intervals, ratios, coincident partials, beats, etc. He offered several explanations of how Pythagoras may have chosen pitches for a scale by observations from the harmonic series. At first, this may seem less relevant to our modern world of equal temperament and increased use of electronic tuning devices. However, the more one understands about the history of our profession, the more options we have when making choices for how our temperaments need to be adjusted to make individual pianos sound their best. For those who had not had basic music theory, Mr. Geiger’s class was invaluable in learning about the names of intervals and where they occur on the harmonic series. This created a foundation for understanding why intervals are tempered in certain directions as well as how coincident partials approach one another.
Steve Brady, RPT, continued this train of thought. If one had the basics from Mr. Geiger’s class, it would be an easy transition to Mr. Brady’s class on “Temperament Theory Without Tears.” Here we got into specific deviations from nature. We learned about various commas and how various temperaments differed from each other. Most interesting was how meantone temperaments, which start with the third in mind, differ from “well” temperaments, which start with the fifth in mind. We increased our vocabulary and observed varying degrees of difference between half-steps in various temperaments. It was interesting how different historical figures would make different choices depending on their goals, such as being able to play in more keys or attaining a greater color change between keys, equal temperament being the ultimate example of the former.
Understanding different aspects of the harmonic series is essential to knowing how to use them. This was the focus of “The Indispensable Ninth Partial” by Dan Levitan, RPT. Mr. Levitan demonstrated how one could use the ninth partial of the harmonic series to test running 23rds with an easily audible beat rate of around three to four beats per second (bps) instead of a beat rate of up to 25 bps, which can happen with other widely separated partials. Since this beat rate is more easily heard, a discrepancy in running 23rds can be more readily detected. This helps locate errors in the upper range, as well as in comparison notes from the lower range and adds an indispensable item to our toolbox of interval tests.
Dan Levitan teaching at the piano.
Zhiwei Huang: Voicing Without Needles
Ed Sutton, RPT
I must admit I went to this class hoping to hear of new uses for brushes or tweezers, a clever trick with a combination tool handle, or maybe of a new felt softening juice from the beauty section of the drug store. Zhiwei Huang’s “Angel Shot” class of nearly ten years back gave me a voicing technique that I have used almost daily, so it’s understandable I arrived expecting something further along those lines. Not so.
Getting to the core of it, the tool Zhiwei was urging us to use over a wide range of observations was an attentive and curious mind. Voicing is about the sound of the piano, and ultimately about how we perceive the sound of the piano. Do we really notice and understand what the environment does to shape the sound of the piano? Here’s a simple experiment: If a stage piano offers voicing problems, walk around the stage and clap your hands, listening to the sound response of the environment. A slight change in the position of the piano may be the most important act of “voicing” you can do.
The discussion of matters involving string seating, hammer contact and such were more along traditional lines. Finally, Zhiwei demonstrated peripheral regulation points. How does key dip affect voicing, or the response of the piano, or the touch of the performer? Can a change in a front punching change the sound of the piano? Such questions require open-minded attention to what the performer and the piano may be trying to tell us, and willingness to approach each individual situation with optimistic curiosity.
Zhiwei Huang compares soft and hard front rail pitchings.
St. Louis Exam Review
Hannah Beckett, RPT
Examination is a difficult process. With the exception of a few “test takers” who actually enjoy undergoing scrutiny by a panel of experts, most people do not enjoy exams. I definitely don’t. Taking exams gets my heart pumping and palms sweating as if I was back in tenth grade. But exams are an essential part of learning anything. Exams are the broccoli of life, a not-so-tasty key ingredient to a healthy education. Knowing this cruel fact, I submitted to fate and took the exam to become an RPT, just like I used to force-feed myself the broccoli that my mother served at dinner. I emerged on the other side realizing that studying for and taking the exam was the most intensive and effective digestion of information in my piano technology education. I plunged right back in and became a technical examiner to satisfy my now voracious appetite for excellence. I became an RPT and a TEC so that I could know that I know my stuff. I now also have an immense respect for both the fairness and precision of the exams, and for the many examiners I know who do their very best to uphold standards of excellence in the Guild.
In St. Louis, I thought it might be beneficial to hear from some of our newest RPTs about what their exam process meant to them, and what methods they used to achieve success.
Thank you, Kurt Baxter and Jenny Stokes, for your candid thoughts and observations!
How did you prepare for taking the exams, and what practicing advice would you give others?
Jenny Stokes: I’m new to the Guild, a member since May 2016, and I’m proactive about searching out information. I first went to the PTG website and found all the materials that are out there. I found the PACE checklist, and I read all the PACE books cover to cover. Those three books on regulation, repair and tuning were instrumental in teaching me what I needed to know to pass these exams. I also borrowed action models from my chapter so that I could time myself and practice taking the exams. The first ten pages of Update to the Sourcebook Appendix (available online for free) gave me helpful procedures for how to regulate and what to expect from the exams. I called an examiner and asked him what to expect and what tools I would need, because I wanted to make sure that I had everything and that I practiced with those specific tools. The resources are out there. You just have to look.
I asked my chapter members if they had little parts that I could work on. One of them gave me an old console action on the condition that I not return it. I used that to practice hammer filing, and I broke shanks and practiced repairing them. Someone else in my chapter had taught stringing at a regional workshop, and I knew he had stringing jigs. I borrowed them and practiced string repairs for several months.
I felt more confident on the tuning exam because I’m an aural tuner. I made a point of seeking feedback on my tunings by contacting CTEs in my area and asking if I could tune for them. I did it early on, before I was ready to take the exam, but it was a wonderful starting point. I went to a university and asked to tune for a technician there and get his feedback. Everyone tunes differently and has favorite tricks and aural tests, so I sought out a number of different people to learn from. I also went to a dealer and asked to tune floor pianos. People are more than willing to help out. They want you to pass and are eager to help new people in the field. That’s what makes this organization so great! Everyone is so willing to share knowledge and cheer you on. Eventually I found someone willing to do a full mock exam for me, including de-tuning the piano and scoring. That was most helpful because I was able to see the numbers and practice with the time limits. That was when I realized I could do it. Passing the exam became a real possibility.
This is a volunteer effort. People are giving away their time to administer these exams. I didn’t want to waste their time, I wanted to do right by them, and I wanted them to feel that their time had been well spent. For me, being prepared for the exams was my way to do that.
Kurt Baxter: I did mock technical exams. I worked with the Syracuse chapter. Before every chapter meeting they work with people who want to take the exams. They had the jigs, they had the PACE materials, and they made all of it available to anyone who wanted to learn. Once I felt confident with my skills, we set up mock exams. That was extremely important because I found failure points that I would not have guessed were there. For example, I do a lot of string splicing so I felt fairly confident with that repair. When I went to take the mock exam, I just brought the stringing kit that I normally use. I have coils pre-cut for just the right length needed for each section of the piano, but the jig is longer than the top octave of the piano, and my pre-cut lengths were not long enough. At the last second I ended up breaking the string trying to get the correct number of coils on the pin. I was thankful that I had discovered this before the actual exam. No one would have known to tell me that because no one really knows the quirks of my particular system.
I was not confident on the tuning exam because I’d been tuning for a long time using an ETD. I used aural checks, but never had to rely on them in a critical situation. I learned aural tuning theory from a community college, but I never got good at it. I work for Eastman so I started staying late to tune and get feedback from the techs there. I knew a Kawai dealer who let me tune floor pianos. It was helpful to do mock tuning exams so that I could see the numbers and track how I was doing. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I was getting 80s and 82s consistently. I wanted to do better than that before taking the exam.
Why did you want to take the exams?
Kurt: First, to gain a sense of legitimacy. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I’m young, and sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously. I show up at someone’s house and they’re expecting a seasoned veteran. Even though I know my own skills and abilities, I sometimes feel they consider me a “kid.”
Second, to fill gaps in my knowledge. Taking the exams made me realize that there were repairs that I’d been doing the wrong way for years because I hadn’t bought the right tools. I’d was getting by because I seldom had to do these repairs. Challenging the exams gave me the excuse to go buy the tools I needed and to become organized.
Jenny: I wanted to take the technical exams so that I could learn those skills. I’m very new and I used to get so nervous when a client would call with something like a sticky key that I couldn’t eat breakfast. I never knew what I was going to find or if I was going to be able to fix it. Preparing for and taking the technical exam gave me the confidence to walk into a house knowing that even if I didn’t know how to fix a problem immediately, that I could take things apart and diagnose it. because I had the base knowledge of the way pianos work. RPT is not the end goal, it’s the new starting point. I have some very passionate chapter members, and they pushed me to dive in. From day one the goal was always to be an RPT.
Since I’m just starting out, I’m still exploring what to charge for my work. With “RPT” on my business card, I can be a bolder with my prices because I have certification to back up my skills. Education is important to me and I needed that to help build my confidence and sell my work.
Behind the scenes of the exam rooms, excitement and momentum build as we watch examinees achieve success, and there are nearly always commonalities in the factors contributing to passing scores. Kurt and Jenny listed every study method I could recommend as an examiner. Examiners are working hard to set up their examinees for success. PTG works hard to make resources available to its members, and a good portion of RPTs are also willing to work hard to make sure you know about them. If you’re willing to prepare for the exams, the benefits will definitely outweigh the cost.
Jenny Stokes, RPT.
Kurt Baxter, RPT.
John Parham and Rick Butler: Introduction to
Movie Making Using Final Cut Pro X
Ed Sutton, RPT
The ease of taking smartphone videos has become commonplace, offering us new ways to document our work and communicate with colleagues, customers, students and teachers. It is worth looking at our video presentations with a critical eye, as they increasingly become a way of presenting ourselves and our knowledge to an audience which is becoming more aware of video quality. The fact that videos exist is no longer amazing. To gain positive attention, our videos must be well made. The tools for making videos are affordable and can be learned fairly quickly, at least at a basic level.
John Parham and Rick Butler presented a class showing two different approaches to making videos. John is especially concerned with documenting field and shop work, and with capturing information in the moment, almost spontaneously. He relies almost entirely on phone and tablet videos, often handheld, and usually making the best of available light. Rick works with a wide variety of video equipment in a home studio where he has full control of setup and lighting. Both use the Final Cut X application, which allows them considerable flexibility in pulling together raw material into clear and expressive teaching and presentation videos. In a quick demonstration, John made a video on the spot, showing how an experienced videographer can overcome location difficulties to create a clear demonstration of a repair process. He also demonstrated how digital editing can clarify a less than ideal raw video to produce a comprehensible and interesting video report.
Making movies of a simple repair.
Paco Morales: Simple Jigs and Tools
John Parham, RPT
Paco Morales’s class, “Making Simple but Very Useful Jigs and Tools” was full of practical ideas for making our work easier. He made everything from inexpensive, easy-to-find materials such as scrap plastic, brass stock, wooden dowels and string.
Paco demonstrated a simple support to install a pedal lyre more easily. Then he added pieces to that same tool to construct a larger jig that supported a grand action pulled halfway out of the piano. An interesting-looking narrow wooden rack laid across grand bass strings served as an organizer for restringing. Another jig with adjustable pieces fit on the stretcher and helped with letoff and checking reference points. For the technician dealing with hand pain, there was an octave tester, along with one for thirds, fourths and fifths.
Not sure what drill bit to use on your new hammers? Paco made a jig for that. Have you ever had to make a loop on the end of a long wire with a dowel jig, only to have to drag it along the entire length of string to remove it? There was a jig for that, too. When lifting grand shanks to level strings, he had a tool made with scrap wood and a thumbscrew. Another piece of wood with a slot on the end made a nice holder for grand damper work. He even had a jig for determining hammer angle that was much easier to use than traditional tools.
Toward the end of class Paco announced that he had made copies of the more popular jigs. At first he drew winning business cards out of a jar that he collected before class. He had so many jigs to give away, however, that after five minutes he said, “Come and get it!” Practically the whole class walked up to the front and negotiated who was going to get what. I took a small pack of shims to repair broken keys, and I already have a job scheduled where I will use them.
Paco exuded a spirit of true joy in not only sharing his secrets, but also in giving them away. He told us that he’d learned English at PTG conventions… and I thought I was paying attention at conventions.
A Paco Morales jig.
Dan Levitan: Finding Joy in Your Tool Kit
Ed Sutton, RPT
Dan Levitan lives in Brooklyn and travels to work via subway and bicycle. His tool kit is a small backpack which has been evolving under tight selection pressures for over three decades. While few of us will need to duplicate the weight and space efficiencies that his tool kit demonstrates, we can benefit considerably by considering the principles of Dan’s kit, which shows thoughtful design and redesign as he has sought to bring as much utility as possible to a service call in his 22-pound backpack.
An efficient tool kit should odffer what you need to do the work at hand and should communicate your professionalism to your customer. One of Dan’s principles is conscientious and mindful control of tools, parts and space. He begins his service call by providing a safe surface for tool and part layout. This can be a simple wool cloth that rolls out on the piano, a lightweight parts tray, or a “book” that holds small screws in the positions in which they are placed.
Space and weight being of such importance, Dan has searched hard to find the smallest possible micrometer, has trimmed off unnecessary tool handles, and has packed a wide range of glues, lubricants, pins and punchings in minimum amounts for touch-up use during a service call. He offers a useful tip to decide how much piano wire to bring in a small kit: Use the last digit of the gauge number. For #16-gauge wire, bring six feet, for number #18, bring eight feet, etc.
To make this “tiny amounts of everything” approach work, Dan has added something we might all use: an index card on which he notes what materials he uses in a service call, so he knows what to replace when he returns home after a day’s work.
A book to...
...hold screws in place.
Notes from a First-Time Convention Teacher
Lloyd Ogilvie, chaplain to the U. S. Senate from 1995-2003, said, “People don’t see things the way they ARE; they see things the way THEY are.” Not only does this offer insight into the teacher-student dynamic, it is an example unto itself. Changing only the emphasized word changes the entire meaning of the phrase.
According to Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and Harvard professor, there are many aspects to intelligence that affect both learning and teaching styles. The first seven are linguistic, logical, musical, visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intra-personal. Mitch and Mary Kiel made sure to address this concept in their “Troubleshooting the Midrange” class at the St. Louis convention. They started with four—visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic—but quickly added a fifth, logical. Mitch is more of an auditory and kinesthetic learner, while Mary is more logical, and they shared stories about how “light bulbs” turned on for them when information was presented with different emphases to reach different types of learners. When Mitch would explain how something felt, Mary would add how it worked mathematically. Many things Mary said brought me, a more logical learner, into the kinesthetic world of piano technology.
When we teach and when we learn, we need to remember that each one of us perceives things just differently enough that we will miss something the other is trying to communicate. If we are aware of these conceptual differences, we can reduce the gap where information is lost and misinformation occurs.
I teach regularly, but had never taught in the convention context until this year. When you only have one shot, it changes the dynamic considerably. With a one-sitting class, you have to follow up on ideas in the time frame allotted and can’t return to ideas the next day. If you miss something, it’s gone. I’m sure experienced convention teachers would agree that over-planning is not a mistake, especially for first-time teachers. When you plan a class, remember to keep in mind the various learning styles and personalities that will be present.
I’d like to share observations of four learning types I encountered at this year’s convention. Their experiences may offer insight for all of us, especially those who teach.
First: experienced and confident. Some are set in their ways and some are open to new ideas, but all are satisfied with their own professional approach. They may disagree with some different ways of thinking, but see these as differences only and are not accusative about any particular approach being right or wrong. They can share what they believe and still respect methods that may be different.
Second: experienced and apprehensive. Although most of these people are satisfied with their work model, they are not always confident expressing concepts that are outside the mainstream model. Allowing them a secure space to share these thoughts can prove beneficial to all.
Third: inexperienced and confident. These people know exactly what they want and they go for it, learning everything they can like a sponge. They are confident in sharing information they know, and are aware of what they don’t know and what they need to learn.
Fourth: inexperienced and apprehensive. These types may or may not know where they were in their learning progression. Those I met came in two varieties: (1) open to new ideas but sensitive to perceived judgment, and (2) reluctant to learn for fear of being found lacking. Although these two personalities seem very different, I believe a similar approach can work with both.
The problem with the former students, although they are much more open to learning, is that they can be sensitive to perceived judgment. This isn’t a problem for the teacher, but the student can learn more in the long run if the teacher is careful to find value in things the student is already doing, even if misguided. One must be careful not to correct these types as if they are doing something “wrong.” Educate them by including their method as one of many means of accomplishing a task, where some might work better for them than others.
The latter students are more problematic because they can become closed to learning. The trick is to remember that they will go in and out of this mode when you don’t realize it. They may remember things you say later even if it seems they are not listening. The hardest part is to give them a safe place where they can let their guard down. This isn’t always possible, but look for it. One way to do this is the same as I’ve already mentioned: Give them validation in anything you can find that they are doing right. Give them that acceptance and they can open up to ideas they would otherwise not hear. If any student feels safe and secure, he or she is more likely to learn. Some come by this naturally and some do not, so try to create a space for it when you can. For those too afraid to let their guard down, try to be patient; most come around eventually.
Why should a teacher care about creating this space? Shouldn’t a teacher simply make information available for eager students to absorb? Teaching isn’t about the teacher, except for the fact that we too become our own students when we teach. It’s always about the student. Some students more readily absorb information presented in traditional ways. But remember that even a seemingly difficult student is still there to learn. Always look for new ways to reach different types of students.
The Competency Playground offers opportunities to learn and refine core skills of piano technology: string repairs, bushing repairs, hammer repairs, parts alignment, aftertouch refinement, accurate measurements of parts and strings. Choose your skills and go at your own pace.
Action transport demonstrated in Kathy Smith’s class.
Practicing a basic string splice.
Emily Hawkins explores subtle adjustment of aftertouch.
2017 Council Report
We needed 40 PTG chapters present for a quorum in council this year. We had 61, a nice number compared to years past.
With only three bylaws proposals on the agenda this year, we thought council would be uneventful. Wrong, and by a long shot.
Proposal 1 passed. Associates now will have two chances to repeat failed sections of the technical exam before they must retake it in its entirety.
Proposal 2 passed, instantly transforming council’s role to an advisory body to the PTG board of directors. After adoption of this change, everyone was practically speechless. Now what? What about proposal 3? How do we move ahead? What do we do now? The board and council did not know how to proceed. After about 40 minutes of dialogue, we decided to adjourn for the day. As for proposal 3, council had no authority, so it was decided to let members of the board decide on their own.
For 60 years PTG has operated under a board-council dual system of government, demanding our ship navigate slowly—the board had an idea and council voted on it a year later. That system is now gone.
Since council finished business in one day, we decided to use the half-day reserved for Tuesday as a time to present council’s voice to the board. At the end of the session, we had our first council-driven long-range planning discussion about where we would like to see PTG go. The board heard our voice—immediate, direct, and without the filter of committees or task groups. We stepped to the microphone and spoke our minds.
These are the long-range topics on the table as of July 11, 2017.
1. Associate voting rights
2. Most recent long-range planning report from the board (several years old, by the way)
3. What is a piano? Acoustic vs. digital vs. hybrid
4. Concerns and goals of ETSC
5. Appropriate time limits for exam retakes
6. Nurturing young leadership
7. Increasing the perceived value of membership
8. Increasing the role of PTG in the education of members
9. How to introduce proposals of future agenda items for council to consider
10. How PTG relates to non-member technicians
11. The effects of culture and technology on the piano industry
and our future
12. Increasing the profile of PTG in the community locally and nationally
13. Branding of the PTG logo
14. Increasing membership participation
Your RVP can now express your voice with more volume. It was an exciting council.
Rick Butler explains specialized video equipment.
John Granholm, RPT
Glen Bingham’s presentation of Steinway’s Spirio reproducing piano was a glimpse into the future.
The Spirio system is available in the United States on New York Steinway models M and B. It is factory-installed and available only on new pianos. Because of extensive keybed redesign required to accommodate Spirio while preserving manual playing quality, Steinway will not offer retrofits, but dealers will provide generous terms to Steinway owners wishing to trade up.
Spirio is a state-of-the-art digital player system. The only hint of its presence from outside the piano is a power cord—no console sits under the front of the keybed. Spirio’s owner controls the system via Bluetooth from an iPad that displays the system’s control panel and stores its music library.
New music selections arrive over the Web every month, made by Steinway artists with proprietary software that samples hammer velocity 800 times a second to record dynamic levels. The system also can record up to 256 pedal positions at 100 samples per second to reproduce proportional damper and una corda pedaling. The musical results are remarkable, indistinguishable from actual playing.
But that’s not all. Using the iPad’s video features, Spirio’s owner can watch an artist play in high definition on a flat-screen TV while the piano seamlessly produces the music. In addition, Steinway has made use of technology developed by Zenph Studios that enables digital capture and transcription of old analog recordings. Historic performances are available, bringing long-dead musicians back to life.
Access to the Spirio music library is included with purchase, as are two years of warranty service from a factory-trained piano technician who will keep the piano tuned and precisely regulated, and will assure that the player system is working properly.
Mr. Bingham freely admitted that Spirio pianos are aimed at wealthy buyers who are attracted to the latest high-end toys. However, he also expressed Steinway’s belief that Spirio and other hybrid player systems may point the way to a more profitable future for an industry that’s been facing a long decline.
Jeff Hickey teaches bushing repairs.
“It’s going to be expensive,” I complained to my husband. “I wonder if it’s really going to be worth it.”
“It will be an experience,” he said.
The first couple of days at the convention were filled with classes that did not disappoint. In fact, I was so engaged I spent every evening reading through the schedule again and again trying to decide which classes to take. On the second day, I was looking for a class to take for the last period. “Introduction to the PTG Technical Exam” was one of the only available classes. Having already taken the technical exam, I didn’t see too many reasons to take the class. However, I hadn’t passed the vertical section, so I hoped a tip might be shared to help me pass the second time around. When the instructor mentioned he hadn’t passed the vertical exam on the first try, I felt relieved. He expressed that he thought the techs in his chapter would laugh at him for not passing, but they didn’t. Because he mentioned this, I felt freer to talk about my own experience.
The next day, I happened to cross paths with this same instructor. He said he sensed my frustration in the class and believed he could help me pass the vertical section of the exam. He offered to work privately with me. I was elated! We got together a day later, and he spent one and a half hours working through the vertical action model with me. This generous gift of time and knowledge had an impact on me.
The rest of my days at the convention were filled with more of this care and concern. Conversations in the hallways with techs from across the country, sharing their knowledge and skills in any way they could, led to a greatly increased level of understanding for me. As a result, I am more effective and efficient in the field.
My first mentor recently said to me, “Everyone in the Guild is sort of a friend, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” I replied. “The best group of people ever!”
When I returned home, my husband asked me if I thought going to the convention was worth it. I said, “Absolutely! It is so much more than just classes.”
IAPBT members posing with the PTG board of directors.
Awards & Honors
Phil Bondi and Paul Brown exchange the PTG president’s hammer and past president’s medal.
Hall of Fame.
Jude Reveley and Eric Schandall received Crowl-Travis Member of Note Awards
Ron Nossaman posthumously received both the Crowl-Travis Member of Note Award and the Jack Greenfield Award.
Hall of Fame.
Phil Bondi, Crowl-Travis Member of Note Award.
Bruce Dornfelt and Norman Zeringue,
Examiner of the Year: Alan Crane,
award presented by Keith Kopp.
The Golden Hammer
Remarks delivered by Rick Baldassin, RPT, at the convention opening ceremony.
The recipient of the Golden Hammer started tuning pianos while in the Army. The piano at his church needed tuning, and he acquired books, practiced hard and learned how to tune.
After leaving the Army, he started a wholesale jewelry business with his brother. Realizing that this wasn’t his thing, he went back to tuning and started his piano service business in 1972, and joined the Piano Technicians Guild in 1975.
He established a piano technology school in 1974. In the school, he was involved with training students from all walks of life and various countries to tune, regulate and rebuild pianos, and to use proper business practices. The school has been very successful and many of its graduates have gone on to become Registered Piano Technicians in the Piano Technicians Guild. He has also worked with private and government agencies to customize the course to meet special needs.
He furthered his own education and experience by attending various PTG seminars, schools and factory courses given by Steinway, Baldwin, PianoDisc, Yamaha, Kimball and Wurlitzer. These courses helped further hone the skills necessary to service the various makes and styles of acoustic pianos, electric pianos and electronic keyboards that are used by many commercial accounts, such as clubs, service groups, recording studios, churches and schools, as well as private clients.
In addition to the school, he ran a well-established piano service business for 43 years, specializing in all phases of piano servicing, repairing, rebuilding and refinishing. In addition, he assisted customers, churches and schools in the selection and purchase of new pianos.
His service to the Piano Technicians Guild has been noteworthy. In his chapter, he served as president, vice president, secretary, delegate and alternate delegate to council. On the national level, he served on the nominating, members’ rights, ethics and bylaws committees, and was Southeast Regional Vice President. He was one of the founders and charter members of the International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians, and served as its international secretary/treasurer.
He has been an instructor at local, regional, and annual conventions of the Piano Technicians Guild in the United States and a guest lecturer at international seminars in Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Korea, Italy, Japan and Switzerland.
Due to his humble demeanor and gentle nature, many may not be aware of the length and depth of his service and contributions to this organization, but everyone has been the beneficiary of his musical contributions that have enhanced the social atmosphere of our annual conventions. For more than 30 years, as a volunteer and in addition to the service to our organization already mentioned, he faithfully conducted a barbershop chorus that performed each year for our membership, and that has now been named in his honor.
He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Atlanta chapter, was acknowledged as a Crowl-Travis Member of Note in 1990, was inducted into the Piano Technicians Guild Hall of Fame in 2006, and just a few days ago, on July 2, he was presented the Golden Hammer.
The 2017 recipient of the Golden Hammer award is Larry Crabb.
At the time Larry was selected, it looked hopeful that he would be able to be in attendance to receive the award. Later we were informed that Larry would not be well enough to be at the convention. After consulting with our president, a decision was made to present the award prior to the convention, and a video was produced to be shown at the opening ceremony.
I want to thank Bill Davis, Phil Bondi, John Parham and Nate Reyburn for the part each played in the scheduling, presenting, capturing and making of this award.
Tribute created by John Parham, RPT