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A Piano Technician's Playground at BYU

Here’s a peek into a recent piano tech’s playground event, the new Intro to Piano Technology course offered at BYU, and the work of the BYU piano technicians.

From jazz ensembles to choir rehearsals to solo performances, the piano is the instrument that underlies and supports nearly every form of music. Yet some may not have considered how much skill is required to care for a piano.

Here’s an inside peek at the skills piano technicians practiced during the piano technician’s playground event as well as a new Introduction to Piano Technology course and the daily duties of one of BYUs own full-time piano technicians, Jason Cassel.

Piano Technician’s Playground

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Photo by By Unknown author

The piano technicians playground event—sponsored by the Salt Lake City Chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild—aimed to provide experienced piano techs and students alike with the opportunity to practice repairing and maintaining pianos. Jason Cassel and Rick Baldassin, members of the Piano Technicians Guild and full-time BYU piano technicians, helped organize and host the event.

Jason Cassel explains that “the playground” is a hands-on piano technician experience complete with 14 different work stations. At each station, piano techs practiced skills like replacing a broken string, regulating a piano, aligning parts, and placing new felts on the keys. Each station had a video tutorial and a designated facilitator to coach the piano techs through their tasks.

In total, over 80 technicians attended the event, ranging from full-time professional piano technicians to students in one of the newest courses offered in the School of Music: Introduction to Piano Technology.

Introduction to Piano Technology

 
After teaching a wildly popular piano technician elective during the annual Summer Musician’s Festival, Jason and Rick (with the support of Dr. Diane Reich, director of the School of Music) created a class dedicated to teaching students the fundamentals of piano technology.

Jason is enthusiastic about the new course because it helps musicians understand the piano in a more meaningful way. “Whether these students go on to perform in concert halls or teach in their own home studios, . . . they’re probably going to own a piano,” Jason says. “And learning some of the terminology and the way that some of the mechanisms work . . . enriches nearly every aspect of a musical education because pianos are a part of every aspect of music education.”

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“Whether [these students] go on to perform in concert halls or teach in their own home studios, . . . they’re probably going to own a piano, and learning some of the terminology and the way that some of the mechanisms work . . . enriches nearly every aspect of a musical education.”
—Jason Cassel
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BYU Piano Technicians

The new piano technician course is especially exciting for Jason and Rick because it was here at BYU where they both learned the skills of a piano technician. When Rick was in school, BYU offered an associate degree in piano technology. When Jason was an undergraduate studying commercial music, he took a music business class and was assigned to come up with five potential career paths. Because he had to complete the assignment, Jason put piano tech as his fifth and final choice. But when Jason was assigned to learn more about each career path, he contacted Keith Kopp (the full-time piano tech in the School of Music at the time) and ended up being hired as a student piano technician.

By the time Jason graduated, he had his Registered Piano Technician certification and was immediately offered full-time work as a piano technician. Later when Keith Kopp retired, Jason was hired as the replacement. “It has been so fun that now I get to pay it forward and [mentor] the next generation of students,” Jason says.

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“It has been so fun that now I get to pay it forward and [mentor] the next generation of students.”
—Jason Cassel
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Together, Jason Cassel and Rick Baldassin employ several student piano technicians to help them care for 200 pianos in the Music Building. Each piano is tuned at least once a month, and some high-profile pianos (like those played during recitals and concerts) are tuned almost every time they’re used. Jason says, “We put a fresh tuning on those [high-profile pianos] multiple times a week so that when a student goes out for their recital or the choirs go on stage, . . . the School of Music is well represented and the students or ensembles get what they deserve for all the hard work they put into that performance.”

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