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Artisans: Piano Tuner Phil Bondi

A look behind the ivories



 

Phil Bondi

Piano Tuner

Age: 58

Years in the field: 18

Years in Southwest Florida: 23

 

The first thing Phil Bondi does when he enters a home is befriend the “boss.” The boss, of course, isn’t the piano he’ll be working on—nor is it the piano’s owner. The boss is the family terrier, and if Bondi is going to spend the next hour on the floor, tickling the underbelly of the family’s baby grand, he better have Fido’s approval.

“I have yet to not be able to win over a dog,” he says, proudly.

Bondi has been tuning and rebuilding pianos since he saw the writing on the wall for his professional music career. “Rooms were closing and opportunities weren’t presenting themselves. I wanted to do something else but stay close to my strengths,” he says. Now he gets to play daily, both before and after each piano is tuned. The only difference is that he’s playing for an audience of one—two if you count the family dog.

 

 Playing Favorites? Not Really

“There are a few jokes out there in the piano tuning community about certain types of pianos, but there is no particular piano I like or dislike working on. Your piano is my favorite piano when I’m working on it.”

 

 Hammer Out the Details

“The biggest thing I try and do is talk to customers and try and get as much info as I can before I come. What the piano needs is going to depend on how long it’s been since it was last serviced and what the client’s expectations are.”

 

Singing the Blues

“One of the hardest things in my job is when someone has a piano that needs a lot of work and I have to tell them that, hey, this is going to need more work than it’s maybe worth to get it to a point where little Johnny or Suzy can play it. That’s hard.”

 

Classics Rock

“I don’t worry about digital pianos ruining my business. There’s enough regular pianos still out there that I think there will be work like this for a very long time.”

 

Hear and Now

“One of the job hazards that people don’t realize is the risk of deafness. I wear ear protection when I work. People don’t realize they’re losing their hearing until it’s gone and you can’t get it back. In this profession, my hearing is everything.”

 

Tinker the Old Ivories

“I don’t do as much rebuilding as I used to do, but every now and then I’ll do it. In most cases, by rebuilding you can make a piano sound better, but it’s very time-consuming and somewhat tedious.”

 

A Major Achievement

“There are 10,000 tiny parts in a piano, but, believe it or not, when you rebuild one if you end up with one left over it’s usually very obvious where it goes.”

 

Melodious Funk

“Sometimes a piano is what it is. I can improve tone and touch—that’s how the keys respond when you play them. But sometimes a piano just is what it is.”

 

Joyful Noise

“Pianos are meant to be played. If I had to choose which I’d rather tune—an upright that’s played by kids every day or a grand piano that sits except for parties—I’d say the upright. I love doing both, but little Suzy and Johnny are my future customers and pianos are designed to be played.”

 

Tuning Tools of the Trade

“Most of the tools we use in our trade are really specialized tools—these aren’t things you can buy at Home Depot. I’d be lost without my tuning lever. Most tuners—myself included—carry a spare just in case something happens. Oh, and a flashlight. I always carry extra batteries for that, too—although, that you can get at Home Depot.”

 

Sound of Silence

“I don’t play too much outside of my job any more. At the end of the day, I need my quiet time.” 

 

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