Executive Outlook

May 2017

 


Mentorship

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hi, everyone. 

To quote a famous writing duo:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

The Beatles? Piano work? Bear with me while I connect those dots.

This my 20th year in the business. It seems that every year since 2003, I have been asked to mentor someone who wants to become a piano technician. “Every year” might be a little bit of a stretch, but not by much. I have mentored someone who is now in the business doing piano work. He has in turn become my harpsichord mentor, since that’s his strong suit—he has built and serviced them. We have a great working relationship, where we refer work to each other that we’re unable to get to in a timely fashion or prefer not to do anymore. Dave has proven to be an asset to my business, and I hope I have been one to his as well.

There are two technicians in my chapter who have been asking me to spend some time with them. Finding the time to do so has been my biggest obstacle. As easy as that last statement is to take as an excuse, it is the truth. Time is a valuable commodity, and there never seems to be enough of it. Regardless, if we are to be an asset to the profession, mentoring is one way of paying it forward. 

Should mentoring be something we all aspire to? No, but think about how you got to where you are today. Chances are you had, and still have, a mentor or mentors. A couple of you who are now reading this are on my speed dial. I am not bashful to admit that, and I find it healthy that there are technicians out there who are willing to lend a hand or an ear at any given moment. There are few professions that I know of whose members enjoy the congeniality and camaraderie that comes for most of us in this field. 

Of course, there are some who feel mentoring to be either a waste of time or threatening. I will admit to writing about this subject from a place that has not been threatening, nor do I see or feel it locally. We all seem to get along.

As my time with the PTG board of directors draws short, and as I have witnessed in my years serving from this perspective, I see mentoring more and more as an important and valuable part of our profession. I would not be where I am today without people caring about me and mentoring me. And, as my time serving the organization winds down, the more I see myself being able to give my time back to those who are interested in the field, as others did for me 20 years ago. Da Rook. Always was and always will be.

The love I take from this profession only matters in relation to the love I make, in the form of sharing my experience with another tech or two. Helping build a love of this profession for someone else will amplify my own love for the field. 

If you’re already mentoring and teaching others, thank you. What a wonderful way to make a living..

 

April 2017

 


Hello, Peter – Meet Paul

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

I’ll take a short break from this year’s St. Louis convention promotion to discuss the reality of a no-dues-increase budget year and how you should not feel its effects. 
When I proposed no dues increase for 2017, there were more Yeas than Nays. That was expected. 

The Yea voters felt some vindication, and they felt they were being heard. The Nays knew this was not going to be easy, but it was perhaps a necessary organizational exercise. I have heard from both sides of the aisle on this issue, and both have their strong points. 

What I have come to realize is this: If you don’t feel something, did it really happen? It’s a “There was an earthquake 200 miles away, but it didn’t affect me” scenario. We are still required to deposit two percent of our income into reserves; we still have a fully staffed professional home office and a Journal that magically appears each month. Programs and grants are being funded. So, what’s the problem with the Nays?

The problem is that the Nays wish to be good team players and wish the membership not to feel the effects of this budget year. Truth be told, every line item on that budget was scrutinized by our Executive Director, who managed to deliver a document with black ink on the bottom line. Smoke and mirrors? No, just a carefully designed budget for this organization to work with for one year.

During the mid-year board meeting this past February, the board approved $2,000 for further funding and development of the Competency Playground, to make it more portable and to start developing more Playgrounds so more regions have an opportunity to take advantage of this experience. When you have rave reviews from RPTs and especially from new techs about the Playground, the thought is to further develop the concept. That’s what the board decided to do, in a year where pennies count. Where is the money coming from? The existing 2017 budget. I am crossing my fingers that the home office will not need any major repairs this year. We have been very good, excellent in fact, at staying on top of the upkeep on that structure. You happy homeowners know how that scenario can change rather quickly. I am also hopeful that our legal bills can take a small hiatus for 2017, while our budgetary diet goes through this fiscal year.

The history of the Guild dictates that we do not overspend, and we are frugal with our dollars. The Yeas find that hard to believe, but the longer I am on the board, the more I see, and I believe that to be true. I can tell you until I am blue in the face that we do not waste money, but the Yeas will not want to believe that. The Nays don’t want to rock the boat, since we’re all in it together.

Cooperation. From everyone.  It has been and will continue to be an interesting exercise for the organization, one I hope will show the Yeas and Nays that cooperation, over anything else, is what’s most important to PTG.

 

March 2017

 


St. Louis – All Within Reach

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

I will use this space this month to tell you a little bit about the host city for this year’s PTG annual convention—St. Louis; Gateway to the West; River City; The Lou; Home of the Arch and the baseball team with the second most World Series wins. Union Station Hotel is within walking distance to Busch Stadium, but the Cardinals won’t be in town during our stay. I’ll have to catch up with this personal bucket list item at another time.
Pull up a map of Forest Park Avenue and Market Street in St. Louis. You will find a plethora of things to see and explore—everything from Forest Park, the crown jewel of St. Louis, which has the art museum and the fabulous St. Louis Zoo, spread over 90 acres and exhibiting 560 different species of animals. Head down towards the river, and you can’t miss the Arch and the old cathedral, the basilica of St. Louis, King of France. 

Feeling kinda blue? The Blues Museum just opened last year and has received rave reviews. I was not able to see this museum when I went to visit St. Louis for the convention planning meeting. It’s an attraction I will not miss when we are in town this July.

Are you young at heart? City Museum is one of the most fascinating places I have ever seen. It is a hands-on world of recycled, artsy fun where kids of all ages can climb, slide, create and play in a giant warehouse of adventure. You can spend all day there. 

Everything I have mentioned so far is within walking distance from our hotel. Just a little beyond, a short car or transit ride, and you will find another area worth checking into, the Delmar Loop. Shopping, eating, and entertainment are featured in this area. This is where the famous Blueberry Hill restaurant and music club can be found, along with COCA, the Center of Creative Arts.

Our 60th anniversary will be celebrated in a city that has much to offer, as you can see, and a lot of it is free. Our annual Convention & Institute will also have much to offer, and if the spirit moves you to explore, St. Louis will not disappoint you. It’s all within reach.

February 2017

 


Pianos, A Life (Part1)

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

The subject line above is the theme of this year’s annual PTG Convention & Institute in St. Louis. It is our 60th Anniversary, and we are being joined in St. Louis by our fellow technicians from the IAPBT. I had the pleasure of being part of the last IAPBT convention in Moscow, held in 2015. It will be good to see familiar faces and catch up with these fine people again this year.

Lisa Weller is this year’s institute director, and she informs me I will not have time to take in a Cardinals game this year, with all she has planned for this convention. They aren’t in town during the convention anyway, so I will be close at hand for the entire time! From the lineup Lisa has planned, no one will have time to even get a dip in the pool. She is planning as many as 13 classes per period, ranging from advanced tuning and regulation techniques to introductory classes and classes dealing with our mental and physical wellbeing. The Competency Playground gets an encore presentation from its debut in Norfolk. A day and a half will be given to the Playground for techs of all ages and skill sets to drop by and take advantage of its offerings. There are many stations in the Playground that will challenge even the most experienced technician, and others that will assist those needing a review in a certain area of expertise. There will also be a rebuilders’ and antique restorers’ showcase this year. Instruments will be on display for the four days of the institute, and there will be an entire day of classes focusing on Chickering this year.

Lisa is planning on almost doubling the class offerings from what we saw in Norfolk last year. Last month I mentioned a few of the teachers by name, and to go along with PTG’s excellent educators, Gunther Schiable and Ken Forrest from our friends with the IAPBT will be offering classes. I hope Ken is teaching his class on pitch recognition this year. It was a fascinating class that I use daily in my work. Gunther is IAPBT’s current president, and his classes in Moscow were well received, as I suspect they will be again this year in St. Louis.

St. Louis is shaping up to be quite an event. If you haven’t been to a convention in a few years, this is one not to be missed. From the huge institute of classes, the old-world feel of the Union Station Hotel, experienced educators, class offerings, and our 60th anniversary celebration, St. Louis is looking like this year’s place to be. I have a hunch this convention will keep you coming back for more. 

 Meet me there.

January 2017

 


The Next Big Thing

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

As the holidays come to a close for 2016, it is now time for us to focus on the next big thing— the annual convention. It’s never too early to start planning for this event. This year it will be in St. Louis, from July 12-15. This is PTG’s diamond anniversary—60 years, quite an impressive number. Next summer’s convention will also host the IAPBT. We are expecting a good number of fellow technicians from around the world to meet us in St. Louis. A couple of them have been asked to present a class, and they have accepted. Lisa Weller, this year’s institute director, has assembled an impressive array of teachers for this convention.

Our most recent Golden Hammer recipient, Steve Brady, is teaching three classes. Would you like some personal time with an expert? How about a small-group grand regulation class with Wally Brooks? There will be familiar names: Don Mannino, Randy Potter, Ruth Zeiner, Rick Baldassin. These are perennial favorites, and everyone can benefit from their offerings. I was impressed with individuals Lisa was able to coax into joining us. It’s time for me to shed the tie and get to class this year!

The facility hosting us in St. Louis is magnificent. The Union Station Hotel is an old train station converted into a beautiful and very functional convention space. The lobby is perhaps the most beautiful I have ever seen—complete with a light show every evening. Think Grand Central Station’s lobby with beautiful sculptures and artwork surrounding you. We will be taking advantage of this magnificent space as we plan the evening events for the convention.

I will be writing more about our 60th anniversary convention in this space in the coming months. I am very much looking forward to this event. It is shaping up to be a real celebration of technical knowledge and personal pleasure. St. Louis has many free offerings in the near surrounding areas. It is second only to Washington D.C. in offering free things to do. Personally, I am hoping for the Cardinals to be in town. One can always use a good ballpark frank!

December 2016


2016 – Year in Review

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hi, everyone.

While relatively quiet in regards to changes to regulations, codes, or bylaws, council has directed the PTG board to seek out more information regarding our governance. We knew going into Norfolk’s council session that if round one of the governance task group recommendations got approval, any change in our governance structure was going to take some time. We are still a couple of years from any change in this regard, pending the governance task group’s findings and council’s approval in St. Louis.

The ivory issue has reached a conclusion, and the result is not much different than this chair anticipated it would be. The results can be found at www.ptg.org. Click on the “Ivory Ban” icon on the lower right side of the home page. PTG was in discussions regarding this issue with a few influential groups, none as informative or as helpful as our association with NAMM. Their attorney and public affairs people had the music industry’s best interests in mind while discussing the issue with the federal government. The result for PTG was a ruling that makes us not as free as we once were with ivory, but one we can live with in regard to interstate and international commerce. Not everyone reading this will agree with that, but we knew that once the Feds got their dander up regarding the issue, something was going to change, and it did. Be sure to check the website to be certain of compliance before moving a piano with ivory keys, and please let Shawn Bruce in the Home Office know of any good or bad experiences with transport so we can relay your experiences to the membership.

This year saw the emergence of yet another educational opportunity for PTG—the Competency Playground. Born from a member-driven thought to the completion of multiple learning stations about flange pinning, knot tying and other skills, the Playground made its way to Norfolk for the annual convention and then to Midwest Regional Conference for a regional event. As with anything new with this organization, we are in the learning stages of keeping the Playground relevant and helpful to all who wish to take the dive into it. I hope you will take advantage of its educational opportunities the next time you see it at an event. Many thanks go to Ed Sutton, RPT, and John Parham, RPT, for their vision and their initial assembly of the Playground. It is now in the capable hands of Bill Davis, RPT, and SERVP.

I would be remiss if I did not mention your board of directors and the Home Office. I have been blessed with being able to work with the same RVPs and executive-level people for my two years as president. While that may not seem like a big deal, there are a few former PTG presidents reading this who I am sure wish they had had that opportunity of continuation and camaraderie that this board has. I can’t say thank you enough to all the RVPs for their contributions and their willingness to serve. Time is a valuable commodity, and serving on the board takes up some of that time. These RVPs know when to roll up their sleeves and let their hair down, which makes my job so much easier. Honestly. Thank you.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and joyous holiday season.

November 2016



An Early Christmas Present

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hi, everyone.

You will notice in this month’s mail a letter from the Piano Technicians Guild stating that your dues are going to stay the same for 2017 as they were for 2016. Merry Christmas from the PTG president? Not really, but you’re welcome! The no-dues-increase decision is based on a couple of things: first, my promise to both Dan McElrath and Maria Pollock, who both challenged me as they were departing from the board of directors. These two former board members were very vocal about the way our dues had increased over time, regardless of the fact that when the climb started, we were in a bad financial situation. I will personally thank former board members and especially Barb Cassaday for having an eye toward the present and the future. As an organization we run very lean, and I know a few of you have been victims of our lean tendencies. I hope no hard feelings have come from this.

Second, even though the no-increase policy would appear to start in 2017, I can assure that we as an organization have been looking under every rock since I proposed the dues freeze in January of 2016. Even though we had no reason to do so, we started our budgetary diet at the beginning of this year. It’s been a very good exercise for all of us who deal with these numbers. I have challenged the board and the Home Office staff to start thinking about how can we accomplish our tasks more efficiently and with less cost. Just because we’ve “always done it that way” doesn’t mean we need to continue to do it that way. Chances are some things will need to be changed. This will be hard for some, and I have a good idea where those challenges lie. In some cases, we’re doing a task as efficiently as we can, so no change will occur. In other cases, change will happen. Take, for example, mailing a letter. Multiply that stamp by 3400+ members, and… you do the math. It’s those kinds of tweaks that will keep down our cost of doing business in the future. 

Some of you are expressing dismay over the membership directory decision. This has been a subject of concern in the boardroom for years. I am proud of how the current board has decided to take action on this matter. Yes, it’s a change, and change will bother some people. To others, it’s no big deal. For the good of the whole organization, though, this needed to happen. I will take responsibility for our method of notification and the reminder that a change was happening with the directory this year. We could have done a better job, but that’s all growing pains. We feel it too. We are not perfect.

For now, enjoy the fact that your dues will not increase for 2017. What would appear to be a one-year exercise will actually take closer to two years from start to finish, from my beginning statement last January to the end of 2017. In those two years we should turn over a lot of rocks and improve on our overall efficiency, which, by the way, is good to begin with. But, as we all know in this profession, good is seldom good enough. It needs to be great. As difficult as parts of this exercise will be, I am asking you to give us a chance to be great. I believe you will be pleased with the outcome.

October 2016



One Last Word About Norfolk

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

There was a time when this form of communication was all there was when reaching the PTG membership. By now you have all seen the photos of the convention on various social media outlets and have heard all the wonderful things that people did, learned, and experienced. You are looking forward to all of that and more in St. Louis. I am privileged to have the last word.

Norfolk was a tipping point for this organization, for a few reasons: First, council: I have been on many stages in my life as a performer, stage hand, piano technician. None of them were as humbling and as intimidating as facing my peers in a business setting. Granted, the agenda was small in comparison to other years, yet it was packed with importance. ETSC’s request for simpler accounting for exam re-takes was being refined as council commenced—people trying to do the right thing for the right reasons. That proposal was passed, and a small load was lifted from my shoulders. Next came presentations from the long-range planning and governance task groups. As your president, it is counterproductive to sit on one’s hands. That’s not normally done, but that is what was done in regards to the governance task group—no interference with their work. Their exploration and explanations were well received by Norfolk’s council, so much so that version two of the governance task group has begun exploration of its next assignment. I felt version two needed a little face lift, so with the board’s approval, two young members were added, and we made a switch at the chair position. I am grateful that all in that group from last year have volunteered to stay on for one more year. It’s hard enough to get people on committees for a single year and be productive—two years is a blessing. We are blessed that these fine people are doing the job they are doing for the good of this organization. 

The second tipping point for me was the actual institute and convention. We all heard the positives that came from the convention—the awards, the classes, the concerts, etc. Rest assured we have heard the concerns and complaints also. There has been a concerted effort to try new approaches with the convention. We have done that, and some of these ideas will stay, some will go away, and some will be shelved—all as a result of what happened in Norfolk. Constant tweaking and evaluating will be going on for the next few conventions as we streamline and perfect what is the industry standard for piano technicians from around the world. Never lose sight of that fact. 

As St. Louis approaches, you will hear more from this column about what’s in store for us. If you thought Norfolk was good, St. Louis will be better. As technicians strive to be the best techs for their clients, so will we for PTG.

September 2016



Diversity

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

In this month’s Executive Outlook, I will discuss a subject that the world seems to be having a problem with at the present time, and that is diversity. I’ll share some personal experience and go into some avenues as the term relates to the Piano Technicians Guild.

The people who make up this organization are a shining example of diversity. Just think of the people in your own chapter. In mine, there’s a retired professional who has always been fond of music, a former music store owner who saw the need for quality piano work—and me, who came from a blue-collar background and has been in the music business in one form or another my entire life. In my own neighborhood live a prominent local attorney, a retired World War II veteran, and two gentlemen who have retired from their professions and recently moved into the area. One of my neighbors was not pleased that there were two men moving together nearby. I told this person that he could not ask for better neighbors. I was right. That neighbor has come around since then, and now the two new neighbors watch his home when his family is away. What was once ignorance is now acceptance. 

Diversity has forever been almost second nature in the music business. Thankfully, I never experienced what it was like to feel prejudice or be the victim of prejudice. I wouldn’t call mine a sheltered childhood, either. Being involved with music all my life meant acceptance. All my life I have worked with people of all races, religions and beliefs. To this day, it saddens me to see how intolerant our world has become. I don’t see it in our line of work, and I hope we never see intolerance in this business. What would modern American music of the ’30s have been without Louis Armstrong or George Gershwin, both of whom were from minority groups in this country and suffered greatly because of ignorance. Yet the music is what eventually drove away the insensitivity and the asininity of prejudice. 

In our own little world here in PTG, we are a huge mixed bag of cultural diversification. I am no more like Israel Stein than Jack Stebbins is like Malinda Powell, or David Andersen is like Bill Ballard. We could not be more diverse, yet I call all of these people my friends, and would not hesitate to ask for something from any of them if needed. Diversity is healthy. Diversity is peace.

Thank you to Ralph Onesti for this month’s inspiration.


August 2016



Truth Be Told…

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

The next two editions of Executive Outlook will be a little more difficult than the previous ones, simply because of timing. You’re receiving this in August, but it is being written in June. The next Outlook will be received by all in September, but it will be written just before I head to the PTG convention. It would be easy to write about how great the convention was (haven’t been there yet) and how wonderful it was to see everyone and make a new friend or two. Truth be told, I may not be your president by the time this gets published (I am running unopposed, but you never know), so coming up with a subject to fill this space is a bit harder than it was with previous editions.

In previous Outlooks I have asked the membership to start to talk, and especially to listen to others with either similar or opposing viewpoints. While that statement may seem vague in print, it is actually beginning to happen at the chapter level if the reports I am receiving from regional vice presidents are true. Also, on our PTG-L discussion page there has been ongoing frank and honest discussion on various subjects. Everyone involved is playing nice. For those of you who have had a bad experience with PTG-L in the past or have chosen not to read or participate, I am asking you to stick your toe back in that water. Everyone involved there is cooperating. That group seems to feel the need to communicate openly and without the ridicule that has been present sometimes in the past. That is gone, and may I suggest, it needs to stay gone. At the chapter level, face-to-face discussions about upgrading Associates, PTG governance, and the ivory issue seem to be on a lot of people’s minds. The ivory question should have reached a more permanent resolution by the time you receive this Outlook.

Concerns about Associate franchise, testing, and governance will take more time. It’s taken us 60 years to get to where we are now. A great deal of good work has been done by many well-meaning volunteers, but regrettably in some cases, people have had their feelings hurt. In the worst case scenarios, they were so insulted that some very valuable members resigned from the organization. We cannot afford to lose another member, whether an RPT or an Associate. There isn’t a person I have met in this organization who doesn’t have PTG’s best interest at heart with their ideas and suggestions. How we react to those ideas and how we treat others needs to be respectful. That may sound elementary, and please don’t think I am talking down at this point—this is our history. I have witnessed it, and have been the lead cop in trying to retain an RPT or an Associate who has had a bad experience with this organization. As great an organization as PTG is and has become, there are those who don’t feel that way for strictly personal reasons. This becomes everyone’s job, not just mine. I would love to see us bring in twice as many members per year as we do (every chapter bring in one person), and lose fewer than half of those we do now. We need all hands on deck as we pursue our future as an organization. Those outside the organization who have more than a passing interest are watching too.


July 2016



PTG – A Family Business

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello again, everyone.

I grew up in a non-musical family business that was run by my father. I find the comparisons to his business when I was growing up similar to PTG and how we conduct ourselves. The board of directors was my father and mother. She acted as the vice president and secretary-treasurer to my dad’s presidency. Occasionally one of the employees would have a say in some decision-making that was needed, but for the most part, Dad and Mom took care of things. The clients they acquired had an almost totalitarian attitude toward the business without ever knowing it. If my dad had to be done with a particular client by 5:00 a.m. because of the client’s requirements, then my dad had to make that work if he chose to retain that client. I don’t recall Dad ever saying no.

With any successful business there are many moving parts and much help from the outside to keep the cogs rolling. Maintenance, marketing, friends in the same business, and good old-fashioned customer service and satisfaction were a part of the everyday landscape. As hard a worker as he was, Dad found out very early on that nothing was as important as customer service. He maintained that if you have a happy client, the work will come in bunches, because there is nothing better than a satisfied customer. When he sold his business in 1978 after running it for 22 years, the figure that he was offered for his operation made him take pause. He never in his wildest dreams thought in 1956 that his little one-man, open-back-truck disposal service would ever become a three-truck, eight-employee business with benefits. Success came to my father because of his commitment to excellence.
The same can be said about PTG. There are many moving parts in this business, from the Home Office to the ETSC to council to the board. It all needs to work in harmony and it all needs to work towards the greater good of the organization. There will be varying opinions as to what that greater good should be, but from what I have experienced as your president, everyone wants what they feel is best for the organization. 

Disagreements? Of course. Within any organization there will be disagreements, but the ability to compromise, accept, and move on is key to any organization. My dad’s employees had some strong opinions as to what they felt was best for his business, some of them good ideas, some of them not, but they were always delivered with the best of intentions and the ability to work through differences. PTG does the same every day. Nothing is ever perfect. We all want what we feel is best for the organization. Our commitment to excellence will be our driving force as PTG moves well into the 21st century. 

As I finish my first year as your president, nothing is more apparent to me than the commitment to excellence from all of you. In your own ways you have expressed it to me and to the board, either by being very vocal in a situation or not. Those who don’t say much speak as loudly as those who do. You all want what’s best, and I am honored to have the wheel at this time. I look forward to the coming year and the challenges it will bring. The family business will go on, better and stronger than ever.


June 2016



Forecast: Sunny, With a Few Storm Clouds

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone. I hope you all are well.

Springtime in PTG tends to bring out lots of ideas and opinions leading up to the July’s convention. It’s a rite of passage with the organization, one I have observed for many years. It is one that will continue as long as we meet in the summer. I hope that it never ends. Camaraderie is what has made PTG what it is today.

Some would say PTG’s organizational walls are starting to show their age, and they need a new coat of paint. We are starting to explore possibilities for how the organization will look years from now. We don’t need just to repaint—we must look deeper and reinforce the structure of our organization.

Past PTG President Norman Cantrell eloquently said this in so many words leading up to his handing the gavel to me. I encourage all of you to look at his last eight Executive Outlooks, published in the Journal in 2015. When we discovered the discrepancy in our structure, it quickly became apparent that the solution was a few years away, and that the final solution would come from council, because that is how we are organized. The board serves at the pleasure of council, contrary to what some would like you to believe. I never really understood that until I became the board secretary-treasurer. Then it became apparent. Most of the thoughts and ideas for change in the organization go through council. It’s a system that is slow and cautious, and puts checks and balances in perspective. Our elected officials understand this, and are looking forward to further discussion on how PTG will look and function in the future.

Real change will take time. It will require frank and open discussion, regardless of feelings being hurt or the desire to maintain status quo. That has been my mantra since the beginning. I am confident that the steps to the future have begun. Discussion is taking place. The task group formed to look at the options is doing its job independent of any interference from the board. That’s a must. I made sure Mr. Probst knew that. He would not hear from me unless it was an occasional, “How are you feeling?” Any correspondence from the task group will take place in conjunction with the entire board, not just with the Executive Committee or me alone. 

Springtime in PTG—people talking, people listening, people understanding? I hope so. That’s the only way we get to the next phase in the life of this great organization.*

 


May 2016



Mastering the Waves in Norfolk

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hi, Everyone.

In this May article I am here to remind you of the outstanding lineup of new classes we have coming to the PTG convention in Norfolk this year.

Journal Assistant Editor John Parham continues to give large, with a new class titled Things All Piano Technicians Should Know.

Just when you thought Don Mannino has taught and given back to us everything he knows, he is presenting yet another new class on action centers, damper system repair and regulation, and tuning.

Kurt Weissman will discuss the ins and outs of appraising pianos.

Mike Reiter will deal with repetition and key leveling.

Del Fandrich is offering Spectral Analysis of Piano Sounds.

In their classes Low Country Piano Technician and Working Smarter, Jim Kelly and Dave

Durben will show us all how to do our jobs more efficiently.

These are just some of the new classes being offered this year in Norfolk. The convention will also offer the usual prep classes for the exams, as well as convention favorites from previous years, featuring David Andersen, Bill Bremmer, Rick Baldassin, Carl Teel, and a host of others who have given back and shared their experiences and expertise with all of us in the past, and who continue
to educate us.

All of that, coupled with an attractive convention center and historic surroundings, will make for a memorable experience for everyone. Plan to attend this year’s convention, and plan to be a better technician for your clients after attending.

Now to get out of the board room and into the class room...!

 


April 2016



Always Da Rook

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

There was a time, many many years ago, as I first started on this piano technology journey, when my humility was very apparent. My career as a piano technician is a product of wonderful mentors too numerous to mention, along with e-mail technical discussions and social media contacts. Although I was an adequate piano player when I began, I knew nothing about how it all worked—but there was sheer determination to take in as much as I could. I’m sure I’m no different than many people starting out in this field. The one difference was probably my self-deprecating tendencies. 

There are times when I take myself quite seriously, but when speaking to and learning from people who know much more than I do, my preference is to take the back seat, take a look around, and enjoy the ride. Putting my trust in those more accomplished than I am is the right thing to do. It’s only human nature to try not to be a part of the herd for some things, and that’s where my self-inflicted nickname came from.

As green and inexperienced as I was, I was not embarrassed. I was the Sgt. Schultz of the old Pianotech list; I knew nothing. Yes, I had mentors, but the closest one lived four hours away. My initial contact with piano technology and first love of the profession came from Larry Crabb and the Atlanta PTG chapter, which was an eight-hour drive from my home. There were a couple of techs locally who also helped, but the real meat and potatoes of my development came from Atlanta. That chapter adopted me, and to this day I still receive their chapter e-mails and notifications. My willingness to learn, coupled with my admittedly somewhat warped sense of humor, led to me calling myself “Da Rook” for online discussions. Using that title put me in a place mentally that lent itself to real learning, and those who were teaching got a kick out of it! It’s been 20 years since I signed on to that list, and people still refer to me as Da Rook. It made an unintended impression.

When I was approached to become the Regional Vice President for the Southeast Region, it took a very long time for me to decide. When I accepted the invitation to run, it was suggested that I was no longer Da Rook. Quite the contrary. I was now entering an arena where, again, I knew very little to nothing. I was Sgt. Schultz all over again. I had experience in a former life with leading a production crew in a 24-hour manufacturing facility, but this position was going to be different than that. I was being asked to lead and inform piano technicians, many of whom had been around a lot longer than I had. Humility was required, coupled with carefully worded statements that didn’t sound too political—straight talk. (Remember, from a previous Executive Outlook?) I was learning all over again.

Each step of the way to acquiring this chair has been met with the same humility. The one thing I learned from my mentors is that just because you have seen how an operation works, it doesn’t mean you know how to run it. Amen. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to share. My hope is that this process is ongoing with the elected officials of our organization, and also with those just entering the field of piano technology, as I was 20 years ago.

Once Da Rook, always Da Rook. That’s how I stay humble, and thankful.

 


March 2016



Sharing Moments Together

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

This month’s focus will be on face time—spending time together. Regardless of all the social network outlets available to us now, there is no substitute for an actual face-to-face meeting. 

There was a time when people talked on the phone or wrote letters to each other. More than ever before, we are now communicating via computers and portable devices, and at the same time we seem to be disagreeing with each other more than ever before in those outlets. The old saying you wouldn’t say those things to me if we were face to face plays itself out every day in social media. Fortunately, there are still numerous places where people share, invite commentary, and receive positive strokes instead of the all-too-common negativity that seems to surround us every day.

I recently lost one of my mentors, an individual I’m sure some of you will recall. Jim was a very private person who never enjoyed the spotlight, let alone a camera near him. Doing a Google search on his name did not produce a single picture of him. That’s just the way he was—a private person. I was extremely fortunate to be let into his personal life. Don’t ask me why that happened, because I don’t have an answer to the question, but I feel better knowing the man the way I did. Very early in my new life as a piano technician, he saw something in me that sparked interest in him. We first met via the old Pianotech list. That’s when he discovered I lived about four hours away. He invited me to his little shop, where tips of the trade were exchanged along with some wisdom that carries through to today. 

When they say opposites attract, they were talking about Jim and me. I’m all New York, and let’s just say he wasn’t, and leave it at that. He coined a label for me: Now that I was living in Florida, I was a “recovering Yankee.” Hysterical! What’s more hysterical is that his first wife was a New Yorker, which I reminded him of when he chose to give me a hard time about my origins.

My fondest memory of the man has nothing to do with pianos, and everything to do with spending time together. He designed and built a creek with a waterfall in his yard for Barbara, now his widow. She always wanted one, and he was going to deliver. To my amazement, he did. It still exists, and I am sure Barbara enjoys it and the memories of its construction, as do I. There was a lot of laughter during that time. It is my fondest memory of a man who let me into a place where only a few were allowed.

Jim was very proud of his military service, as we all should be of those who served. He was more likely to give a private tour of his shop and some of his techniques than he was to share that information on e-mail lists. He listened a lot, and he spoke much less than he listened. He was a man of character and wisdom whom I greatly admired and will miss.

Rest In Peace Jim Bryant, RPT. 

 


February 2016



The Annual Convention

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

It’s never too early to start thinking about our annual convention. This year it will be in Norfolk, Virginia from July 20-23. This year’s theme is Master the Waves. Norfolk offers a bit of historical perspective, and it is close to Virginia Beach, a long-time favorite destination for people in this region.

If you have never been to a PTG annual convention, let me offer a few reasons why it’s important to your profession that you attend: 

A plethora of classes and events designed to enlighten and educate you. 
Making connections—putting faces with names you’ve only heard of from other colleagues.
A sense of belonging and sharing that comes with attending the convention. 

We have all met life-long friends from this event over the years. We may not see each other, or even speak to each other between conventions, but when we see one another again face to face, the smiles come forward and the stories start to flow. The benefit of those exchanges cannot be put into a dollar figure. They can only be explained as a benefit of membership. As I found out firsthand representing PTG last year in Moscow for the IAPBT (International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians), we are held in high esteem around the world. I met people who knew my name, were anxious to meet me and have a conversation with me. It was quite humbling to speak to other technicians, some of them educators for that particular conference, all of them speaking very good to perfect English, and share experiences with them. I look forward to IAPBT coming to America in 2017. When we come face to face again, I am sure the smiles will follow. This conference will be blended in with our annual convention, and I am already looking forward to catching up with everyone I had the pleasure to share with in Moscow, and meet new friends as well.

There’s a confidence and self-worth obtained from these events that’s impossible to measure. You can only try to explain it as best you can. For me, it’s this: Everything I have learned and everything that I need to learn has merit. No one knows it all, and having the ability to understand that there’s always more to learn will create better technicians and better members of our organization. The willingness to learn coupled with the willingness to share is what PTG is all about.

Be in Norfolk this summer. Meet a new friend. Catch up with old friends. Learn a new trick of the trade. Most of all, understand that no matter how much we know, there’s always more to learn. There’s a new friend out there waiting to share with you. 

 


January 2016



Camaraderie and the Annual Convention

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hi, everyone.

I know it’s the dead of winter for most, but it is never too early to start making plans to attend our annual convention and technical institute. This year the event will be in Norfolk, VA from July 20-23. In recent years my work with the board of directors has prevented me from attending all the institute classes I wished to attend, but before the board, there was camaraderie and classes. If you’re a frequent reader of this space, then you already know that the money spent for the convention always pays itself back, usually quite quickly. 

As I’m sure some of you are, I was quite skeptical of that claim early on in my PTG involvement. That changed with one voicing class and one class on unison tuning at the same convention. When I returned home, I was much more confident selling a voicing job, and my tunings sounded much better with the tips I learned from that unison class. Just because I had obtained the RPT credential did not mean I was done learning—quite the contrary. It was only the beginning of what has become a successful tuning and repair business. Veterans and beginners alike will attend classes to learn about all types of technical and business practices, with the same purpose—becoming better technicians for their clients’ pianos. It never ceases to amaze me what tips and procedures you can pick up from a class. It might only be a small portion of the class material, but if you can bring that home and make your clients happy, then the convention was a success for you, and it more than likely paid for itself. In baseball terms, I am batting a thousand for feeling like a better technician from attending the convention and institute every year.

It’s one reason we keep attending. The other reason is the camaraderie among fellow techs. It’s always nice to link a face with a name that you’ve seen on one of our my.ptg forums, or heard mentioned in a chapter meeting. I can remember meeting Jim Coleman, Sr. for the first time early on in my development, still an Associate, acting like a little kid in a candy store at my first convention. I was in awe of this giant in our profession, who could not have been more kind to me and supportive of my development. I hope I have returned that kindness to others who have met me for the first time—not that I am comparing myself to Mr.Coleman, but the kindness and the support he gave me provided an internal boost to go forward with confidence in this profession. 

Here’s another tip for everyone: Sometimes the best convention scenarios don’t happen in classes or during the evening events—they happen between classes, or at the restaurants in the hotel. The list is endless of people that have stopped me or whom I have stopped between classes, just to introduce ourselves. It’s always accompanied with a smile and a handshake, and sometimes a hug. It’s always pleasant. It’s always refreshing.

If you’re debating whether or not to attend this year’s annual convention and institute, don’t. Attend. It’s always worth it. Who knows—you might run into someone between classes with a smile and a tip that takes your business to the next level. It happens all the time.

 


December 2015



An Unexpected and Very Much Appreciated Gift

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hi, everyone.

In this issue of my monthly musings, I want to share an experience that made me smile and eventually laugh. A few Executive Outlooks ago I described myself as a person who loves to laugh and share laughter with others every day. I had doubts about publishing that particular EO for fear of coming across as less than presidential. There are people reading this who will never meet me and hear the inflections in my voice or see my facial expressions during a conversation. All they have is my written word, and thank God for proofreaders! 

As it turns out, I received a number of compliments about that particular Executive Outlook, stating that it was refreshing to hear such honesty coming from the president. Thanks for all the kind words.

That article also led to an unexpected gift and a happy experience for me. 

When you receive something in the mail, and the name on the return address is not familiar, you pause, correct? “Who is this, and what is this? What is in this manila envelope from an unknown person in New Jersey, and why is it here?” After carefully opening the envelope, I was greeted by a gift I will always remember and cherish. It was a book, written by a member of our organization who wanted to share with me her love of laughter and her experiences as a writer, a piano technician, a mother, and a lover of the written word and a good story. The book is a series of anecdotes about her life. It turns out that people in her life, namely her mom, had influenced her to do something that is difficult for me—put words on paper, have them make sense, and make people laugh. Good writing is an art form, just as much as what we do as technicians is an art form. I have enjoyed the accounts of the author’s experiences and the written and unwritten life lessons contained in her book. 

The name of the book is Ya Wanna Laugh? and it was written by Lucille Rains, Associate member of PTG. Also, carefully placed above the title are the words, in smaller print, Volume 1. I guess that means there are more stories to tell. I look forward to them, Lucille. You inspired me with your stories, but I was already impressed before I got to the first chapter, because of this statement at the end of the introduction: “It surprised me to discover that writing is simply another form of music. Instead of using tones, you use words, but the creative process behind the two is the same. In this sense, I am still the musician when I write.” 

It will be my intention to live up to that inspiration as I continue to write these Executive Outlooks. Offering inspiration in any form is a gift. Thank you for yours, Lucille.

 


November 2015



Leave It Better Than You Found It

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

One of the first things told to me when I started on this new journey of piano service was, “Leave the instrument in better shape than how you found it.” The majority of our work involves putting pianos back in sonorous and beautiful condition. That’s our job as piano technicians. Whether it’s two cents flat or 20 cents sharp, our job is to leave the instrument in a better condition. I have been fortunate in my area because there are good technicians here doing good work. Occasionally I will receive a call asking for my help with a repair that one of the other local techs either doesn’t feel comfortable with or hasn’t the time for. Outside of those few scenarios, we all stay to ourselves and we are friendly with one another.

PTG executive board service is the same. It is my objective to leave my position in better shape than it was in when I received it. Again, I have been fortunate in my board experience from the start. Clarence Zeches welcomed my presence, and the Southeast Region had been well represented for years before me. My years as a region vice president were spent mostly in familiarizing myself with the national aspect of the position. Clarence’s influence and work previous to mine made me realize how much he accomplished with the chapters in his few years as the RVP. Wes Hardman inherited a region from me that was ready for more of that personal touch, and he delivered. 

On the PTG board, I was fortunate to be in the footsteps of someone who had much more experience with committees, legal aspects and the testing process than I. Norm Cantrell has been a godsend to follow. As I served as PTG secretary-treasurer and again as vice president, Norm provided me the opportunity to look beyond the written job descriptions and take those positions to the next level. I hope I have in turn been able to make Paul Brown’s board experience pleasant—but I also hope I’ve helped his thought process take his understanding of those positions up still higher, so that Paul Adams and those who will follow will have similar experiences. 

As secretary-treasurer I helped streamline the reimbursement process to the point where Jason Hensley’s job involves much less “chasing” the forms or the people responsible for submitting them. As vice president I saw the need to trim committees and yet keep the organization represented and willing volunteers active and participating—hence, the use of task groups instead of committees. Barb Cassaday was a big influence on me there. As president, I oversee all aspects of the organization. In the present climate of “Where do we go from here?” I am hopeful that Paul Brown and Paul Adams and their successors will inherit an avenue to guide us upward and beyond.

There is always work to be done, no matter how well we do the job, and we can only hope that our volunteer positions and dedication to them bring the same results for PTG that we deliver in our everyday responsibilities, leaving it in better shape than where we found it. It’s a tall order, seeing how well we truly are doing—yet there’s always room for improvement.

 


October 2015



Better Today Than We Were Yesterday

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

That’s a fairly lofty goal. I imagine most people see that title and think, “How is that possible?” Being a member of the human race, I understand that thought. I also imagine most people will not recognize the word we, and will subconsciously substitute the word I instead. 

Relating this quote to PTG, its history and its future, is my focus for this article. The royal we. Not I—We.  All the usual phrases come to mind: There’s no I in team. There’s no I in we either. We have outstanding individuals in this organization. I’m not talking about technicians, rather individuals. For a start, take a look in your own chapter, and further out, your region. In my own chapter there are two individuals who have my utmost respect, not because they are good technicians, but because they are good people, good human beings. Regionally, where do I begin? The Southeast is full of former PTG presidents, institute directors, committee chairs, board members, etc. Now, look in your own chapter, region, nationally and internationally.

Where is this all going?

We have an opportunity for the Piano Technicians Guild to be better tomorrow than it is today through us, all of us, working together. We. The word individual starts with the letter I. There’s simply no room for individuals. We will prevail, not I. As stated in an earlier Outlook message: “We have an opportunity to allow our similarities to unite us.” An organization the size of the Piano Technicians Guild will have individuals with varying degrees of opinions and suggestions. I am suggesting joining these individuals and working together as a team. 

There is no grand illusion that there will be peace and harmony from these discussions. Discourse is a path to find the right course. Agree to disagree. Respect for others’ opinions is paramount. We all want the same thing: a better PTG today than the one yesterday, one that is stronger and more united than the one today. We will get there. Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” 

I’ll close the Outlook with a quote from Charles Darwin: “In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” 

I propose a toast: Here’s to the Piano Technicians Guild prevailing.

 


September 2015



Humor, Straight Talk and Honesty

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

This article will introduce me to those who don’t know who I am, have never had a conversation with me, and are reading my words for the first time. I vividly remember reading the Executive Outlook when I first joined PTG and thinking, “I wonder what he’s really like. I would love to talk to him and see if the words fit the written profile.” Not everyone thinks this way. It’s a quirky thing with me, but it is part of the honesty portion that you will read below.

There isn’t a day that goes by that the following three scenarios are not involved with my life. Making a conscious effort to incorporate them is no longer an effort—it happens naturally. It took a while for one of them to develop, and I will cover that one last.

Humor – I love to laugh. I love making others laugh. It pleases me when others laugh at a comment I make, because it demonstrates a level of trust and confidence in that relationship. I confess that I have made the mistake of trying to inject humor into a situation where it was not called for—there’s some honesty! Guilty as charged for injecting “me” into a situation when it was not welcomed at that time. There wasn’t a level of trust and confidence established yet in that relationship. It’s still a fine line for me, because I find humor relaxing—but when dealing with “we,” the use of humor may not be necessary or it may be too soon. Here’s an example: My first glimpse of the PTG boardroom at the Home Office was from the sidelines. I was advised to be quiet and observe. I can’t recall its content or the reason for it, but I made a comment under my breath that was loud enough for the rest of the board to hear. Laughter followed, but then the glare of a dozen pairs of eyes, especially from the person who told me to be quiet and observe. I’m always learning.

Straight Talk – Say what you mean and mean what you say, but sometimes it’s best not to say anything. A given situation will determine whether you say anything, or if you’re smart you just listen to what’s being said. I like to think I’ve gotten a bit smarter over the years and have improved my judgment. I’m always learning.

Honesty – Why is this one last? Because for me, it deals with personal feelings. It has taken me a while to get to the point where I can say something I think may sound critical to someone and not feel anything personal for saying it. It’s a human frailty, an honest one. I have been guilty of putting myself in that person’s shoes before being in touch with how I feel. Let’s just say that that scenario is happening less and less. 

Can you imagine being able to make these statements to thousands in our membership who may be reading this? Hopefully it exposes the person that I am to all of you. I am anticipating the letters and e-mails coming my way from both sides of the street—ones thanking me for being so up-front, and others telling me to resign now! Then there’s that middle ground of the silently observant who will take something from this article and start to use it in their own lives. Thank you

 


August 2015



Our 16th President Said It Best

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President


The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
– Abraham Lincoln

Starting my presidency of the Piano Technicians Guild with this quote is the right thing to do. My time on the PTG board of directors (seven years and counting) has been a proving ground for my ascension to this chair. I have learned from every single person I have sat next to and worked with in the board room. Thank you to all of you.

When the American Society of Piano Technicians and the National Association of Piano Tuners merged 58 years ago to form The Piano Technicians Guild, it must have required complex discussions and difficult compromises. PTG is approaching a similar crossroad. Some will see the issues as taking the life from the organization, while others will see the same issues as providing life. Some strong opinions from both sides of our governance issue will appear. It will be my job to provide the avenue for these and other concerns to be heard. We have an opportunity to allow our similarities to unite us. The answers, and the direction that is chosen, will come from within.

I look forward to helping guide our ship toward a destination that supports the will of our members, protects the founding principles on which the organization was built, and honors the hard work and dedication of those who have preceded me. The historical silent majority of the organization may get a jolt of energy to get involved and participate with this process. That is my hope. Everyone needs to be heard. You have the right, the opportunity, and the person willing to hear it. Please take advantage of the opportunity.

I aspire to this space providing insight, information and inspiration during my tenure. 

 


July 2015

Off Into the Sunset

 

Norman Cantrell, RPT
PTG President


Often when I am working and trying to complete a project, I will say to myself, “That’s the piece I have been looking for!” I most often say this when I am installing the last piece of hardware before a piano is ready to leave the shop. It is a way to remind myself that the task at hand is almost complete. Well, this is the column some of you may have been waiting for, as it is my last as your president.


When looking back at the years I have been on the PTG board of directors and the executive committee, and lastly as president, I have to ask a couple of questions. First, “Did I accomplish what I set out to do during my time of service?” and second, “Was it worth it?” Let me answer the second question first. Yes, it was worth the time invested as I have had many amazing opportunities over the years that would not have been imaginable if I had not taken this path. The answer to the first question is harder to answer than the first. The true answer is both yes and no. There are always things I wanted to get done that just didn’t fit into the schedule for one reason or another. There are also things that can be checked off the list in the affirmative. Rather than list the things I think I might have gotten right, I would rather leave you with some quotes and sayings that have guided me during my service, as they may help you along your journey though life and business.

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!” If you have no goals, you will accomplish little.

“Even a dead fish can swim downstream.”  There is no effort in going with the flow, and there will always be resistance to moving in a new direction.

“Know well the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever nor does a crown endure to all generations.” Proverbs 27: 23-24 NASB.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6. We all need true friends who will tell us straight when we need straightening out.

Finally I want to publicly thank all the members of the board of directors for their support over the years. We have agreed on much and agreed to disagree on some, but always in a cordial and professional manner. Each has represented his or her region well, and you should thank your RVPs for their service to you. It comes at a fair personal cost to serve on the board. I would also like to specifically thank Phil Bondi and Paul Brown, who have served at my side over the last couple of years. They are both dear friends at this point, and I have good faith in their PTG leadership skills for the upcoming years. Thanks also to each of you that I have had the privilege of meeting along this journey. I am blessed for having met you and I hope you can say the same.


June 2015

Flying a Kite

 

Norman Cantrell, RPT
PTG President

Many of us have flown a kite at least once in our lives. Kites have been around for centuries, with most historical records indicating that they originated in China and spread to other Asian countries before their introduction into the West. They have been used for a variety of purposes over the years, including signals, religious ceremonies, military spotting and even recreation. Most of us are familiar with the recreational aspect of flying a kite.

There have been a number of designs for kites over the years, but the basic concept is a light structure, connected to a string and flying upward in the wind. Flying a kite can be a challenge, but often it is more relaxing than anything else. It seems that every time I have flown a kite I have encountered similar phenomena. First, it is almost always relaxing to fly a kite. If you have the time to spend hanging on to a string and watching a kite dance in the sky, you have taken the time to relax already. You can also imagine that all the stresses of life are simply running out on the end of that string and are just lazily moving away from you.

The second thing that almost always happens is disruptions in the wind supply. Despite living in southwestern Oklahoma where “The wind comes sweeping down the plains!” there are changes in the wind patterns. These changes keep you focused during your flying experience. The changes make the kite change direction and sometimes even dip low in the sky before recovering.

Other times the wind dies abruptly and the kite simply falls from the sky. Despite best efforts, the kite crashes and has to be lifted once again into flight. Sometimes the crash results in damage to the kite itself and repairs have to be considered before flight can resume.

What does flying a kite have to do with piano service? Probably not a whole lot, but there are still life lessons to be learned from the kite-flying experience. Keep in mind that the kite can only fly when it is windy. In many parts of the planet, winds often accompany storms. In spite of stormy conditions we can all learn to soar above the problems and even dance delightfully in the process. The kite only flies when it is subject to a bit of tension on the string. The stresses of life are annoying, but they serve to make us stronger and better people. The winds of life are constantly changing. Our best business plans can be changed in an instant by a new law that is passed, an industry change, or by any number of things beyond our control. Our hope is to change with the winds and do our best to remain aloft. We will all crash and burn at some time in some way in our lifetimes. It may be a small fender-bender in life, or it may be a substantial crash that alters everything about us. How we respond to that life crash will define us for the rest of our days.

Lastly, you have to take some time to just enjoy life. You have to just go fly a kite. Sure, you waste the whole afternoon doing it, but you will be better in the long run for it. Carving out time for a simple pleasure will serve as a respite from the stresses that we all face. We need balance and can’t spend every waking hour flying a kite, but an occasional afternoon off will make a ton of difference in the long run.

May 2015

Getting Down the Road

 

Norman Cantrell, RPT
PTG President

Recently our family set out on a trip. I had serviced the car that would bear us safely down the highway before starting out. I checked the oil, monitored air pressure in the tires, topped off the wiper fluid and performed other routine maintenance. We left toward the end of the work day, hoping to get to our destination before too late in the evening, as we had a flight to catch the next day. As we rolled down the road, I noticed a strange vibration that began to affect the trip. I had recently purchased this vehicle and had driven it enough to feel confident in its performance, even though I had bought it used. 

The vibrations were enough to cause concerns, so we pulled off the highway at a truck plaza a few miles from the mid-sized city we had just passed. I inspected the rear tires and discovered that one of them had a bulge, indicating tread separation. We climbed into the vehicle and drove the short distance back to the metro area to find a shop to provide a replacement tire. It was approaching 5:45 p.m. and we pulled into a local big-box store with an automotive department. We encountered a couple of surprises at this point. The first was that because the car had custom rims on it, they would not service it. Second, the custom rims required a special lug adapter to remove the wheels, and a search found none in the car. The guys at the service department said there was a local tire shop that could service our needs, but they closed at 6:00 and were about four miles away. The time was 5:58 and my hopes were fading fast. We headed in the direction of the tire shop, but were also keeping our eyes peeled for an auto parts store that might have one of the special lug adapters we would need to remove the wheel if we had to use the spare and creep back to civilization. 

We got to the tire store at 6:04 and the bay doors were still up, so we pulled into the lot. The manager had compassion for us and agreed to sell us a tire and even an adapter for future use. They pulled our vehicle out of the service bay at 6:47 and we were gratefully on our way. I made sure to tip the young man who had worked late to get us on the road once again.

There are a couple of life lessons from this episode that apply to us as individuals and the organization we all share in PTG. First, there are always possibilities of unexpected events, no matter how well prepared you are when you begin an endeavor. Some of those unexpected events stem from conflicts at the very core or foundation of an integral piece of your life. Another lesson is how you respond when a problem presents itself. We could have blissfully waited until the tire exploded as we drove down the highway, which would have presented a host of possible outcomes, none of which seem pleasant. Or, we could have heeded the warning and taken action. We also had to depend on the assistance of another outside ourselves to address the problem. We as piano technicians are often “fixers” by nature, and we are apt to try to fix problems ourselves that are best solved by other professionals.

Warning signs can appear anywhere—a light on a car’s dashboard, a twinge in one’s back early in the morning, or an uneasy feeling while reviewing a contract or other legal document. The only thing we can be sure of is that there will be warning signs from time to time. Good contingency plans and thoughtful preparation are our best defenses when these situations arise. It sometimes takes courage to be proactive, but often it is what is required when we need to meet a crisis head-on.

April 2015

Embracing Change

 

Norman Cantrell, RPT
PTG President

Small changes in life happen around us all the time. We may not notice, depending on our interaction with a particular entity. Perhaps you are driving down the road and notice a building that used to be there is gone and an empty lot sits in its place, or perhaps a new building may be occupying previously unoccupied territory. How we react to change says a lot about us and about where we are in life.

Most of us in this industry are fairly creative people. We don’t work in traditional nine-to-five jobs, and most of us travel from place to place to service our clients’ pianos. We are more likely to respond favorably to change than do other people whose job environments are more static. But even in our jobs, there is a predictable rhythm. We have busy seasons that correspond to events on the calendar, such as school starting or the holidays. Then there are some ebbs and flows in the work schedule that we can predict after a few years in this business.

One small change that may go unnoticed will soon occur with the PTG Resource Guide. We have provided this valuable piece for many years. It costs more to produce than the revenue generated by the advertising contained within its pages, yet it continues to score high as a member benefit on surveys. For several years the PTG Board of Directors has debated whether to continue this publication or move to electronic delivery of the same information. We have a demographic that tends to favor the use of the paper style of delivery over an electronic format. All of the information in the Guide is on the PTG website, but not in the same format. At the present time we will continue to produce the paper copy, but starting this year we will have a PDF copy of the Resource Guide on the ptg.org website. It is a step toward an electronic format for those who insist we embrace technology, but it still preserves a familiar format for those of us who regularly use the spiral-bound book. 

Bigger changes are a challenge to face. I have a couple of close friends who are facing very serious cancers. To say that their lives have changed as a result of this diagnosis is an understatement. Something was discovered that was a problem and needed immediate attention.

Certain lights on the dashboards of our vehicles carry the same urgency with them. The old saying is that change is inevitable. How we face it and how we respond are the things that define our character. Just be prepared: Something in your world will change today.

March 2015

Comfortable Old Friends

 

Norman Cantrell, RPT
PTG President

Recently I was on the way to a service call and looped by my shop on the way out of town. I noticed that the door to the side shed was standing slightly ajar, so I wheeled in to take a look. My lawnmower lived in that shed, and I was concerned that it had grown legs and taken off on its own. I pushed the door to the shed open and there sat the lawnmower. Relieved, I opened the door to the shop to retrieve a screwdriver to reattach the screws of the hasp that had been securing the door to the shed. It was when I got inside the shop that I realized that the lawnmower was still there, but several of my tools were missing. The folks that decided to help themselves to my stuff had entered my shop through a side window once they were inside the shed.

Having stuff stolen is never a good feeling. There is a feeling of personal violation when you are robbed. It is also interesting to see just what interested a thief and what got left behind. One item that disappeared was a small four-ounce ball peen hammer. It may not have been the absolute best design possible, but it was a comfortable old friend. I purchased this hammer over 30 years ago and from a resale perspective it would probably fetch a whopping seventy-five cents at a pawnshop.

The frustration in all of this is not the value of what was taken, but the hassle of shopping for replacement tools. What I find is that the type of tool I am replacing is no longer in production, or if it does exist it has been modified in some manner. It is “New and Improved!” Personally, I often prefer “Old and Yucky.” I’m still shopping for the right replacement for my small hammer. Nothing I have found so far feels right.

There is another tool investment I have been making over the last several years. Fortunately, no thief can rob me of this set of special and unique tools. Those tools make up the knowledge I have gained over my years of being a piano technician. Each time I attend a class, a seminar or convention, I add another tool or set of tools in my intellectual toolbox.

It is interesting that some tools require maintenance to keep them at top performance. Chisels and planes require sharpening. Other tools require lubrication to keep their moving parts free and easy to use. Our mental acumen also requires maintenance from time to time. If you have ever read a book twice, it is astounding to note what you missed the first time. Likewise, if you have taken the same class at a convention more than one time, you will often reap additional benefits.

It is March, and you should already be making plans to sharpen your intellectual axe by attending the PTG convention in Denver this summer. Remember, no one can steal these tools, but if you don’t invest in updates and maintenance, even your mind can get rusty and your approach can become obsolete.

See you in Denver.