A History of the Piano Tuning Trade – Chapter 34

Chapter 34 was largely based on oral histories that I had heard from tuners I had known. Not much was told to me about African American tuners, so I looked on the internet recently. African American tuners haven’t had much publicity, as you might imagine. Recently a highly respected blind African American tuner died in the Pacific Northwest. His obituary was written in the Piano Technicians Guild Journal for April, 2023. His name was John Grace, one of seventeen children of a sharecropper in Georgia. When he applied to attend the Piano Hospital in Vancouver, WA to learn piano tuning, the state of Georgia resisted paying his tuition since the school was not segregated. He became one of the most successful graduates, working on pianos for over 50 years. He was a charter member of the Puget Sound Chapter of the PTG, where he had a massive impact on the profession in that area.


Another recent success story is that of Warren Shadd. He is an African American piano builder whose pianos are used in the Vatican and in concert halls around the world. You can read of his upbringing and success at this LINK.


Here is a LINK to a site with Piano Technician demographics and statistics. Some of the interesting statistics are that the profession is only 12.7% female, with women earning 90 cents for every dollar a man earns. The profession is 72.7% European American, 12.5% Hispanic, 6.4% African American, 4.9% Asian American, and .4% American Indian and Alaskan Native. If you are not familiar with the term “European American,” here is a LINK to an explanation. I question the accuracy of these statistics, however. I think they are based on tax records of people who are employed, whereas the average piano tuner is self-employed. The reason I think this is that their statistics say that there are only 780 piano technicians in the US. The Piano Technicians Guild has more members than that. The only explanations I can think of are that either they did not look at tax records of self-employed tuners, or that number is a typographical error, or both. Elsewhere on their website, they show that many tuners in a single state. The information is still very interesting and may be representative as far as proportions. I hope you find them useful.