Executive Outlook

January 2018


Demystifying the Tuning Exam = More RPTs

Paul Brown, RPT
PTG President

One of the major concerns from our membership is how to create more RPTs. There is a lot of misinformation out there with regard to the tuning exam being too difficult. Potential examinees should put aside comments made by others about the difficulty of the exam and decide for themselves. What is difficult for one person may be much easier for another. Perhaps my own experience will prove helpful.
As a new Associate member of PTG, I was fortunate to work in a rebuilding shop where three RPTs also worked. Most of the time, when not assisting with piano rebuilds, I followed my mentor RPT out on jobs and listened to him tune. Because I hadn’t passed the trial the RPT gave me after completing a piano technology correspondence course, I was permitted only to watch and listen for one year. The trial, incidentally, was to set a ten-minute temperament on a small spinet piano in the late afternoon at a legion hall with TVs blaring and a full crowd.
About two years later, after much practice on my part, my mentor told me that I would be doing the tuning for the first client that day. When I was finished, he played the piano, did a thorough check of the tuning and told me that I was ready to take the tuning exam. At that time, tuning exams were not given in parts. I had to tune all single strings from C1 to B7 inclusive, in an hour and a half, aurally.
I passed the exam on my first attempt, but since all my marks were not in the 90s, I thought about raising my scores and becoming an examiner. I took the examiner qualifying exam three times but kept missing the passing grade. However, I did notice my temperament and midrange results getting better after each attempt. Feeling frustrated, I asked one examiner what I should do. He told me to stop using the ETD in my daily work and focus on using my aural skills. That advice helped, and I finally passed the CTE qualifying exam and began examiner training. Since that time I have coached many technicians during one-hour sessions at my home or at PTG conventions or regional conferences. Some start with fourths and fifths intervals and refine their temperaments using thirds and sixths. Others use thirds and sixths intervals and refine their temperaments using fourths and fifths. There are many temperament systems out there. Most of the people I have coached have found the tuning exam to be fairly easy and wonder what all of the fuss is about.
Please read one of the best tuning exam preparation articles I have ever read: “Tuning Refinement for Passing the RPT Tuning Exam and Beyond: A Practical Guide” by Atsundo Aikawa. You’ll find it in the May 2015 Journal.
I look forward to hearing from all of you about any of the issues I have presented. Feel free to send me your thoughts at pres@ptg.org.

December 2017


The Value of PTG Membership

Paul Brown, RPT
PTG President

At the St. Louis convention, PTG Vice President Paul Adams and I spoke at the leadership luncheon about the value of PTG membership. The presentation here is an encapsulated version of that talk.

PTG.org contains lots of information for the general public. The website also features a members’ area, which includes the PTG exam availability section, a list of certified tuning and technical examiners, and a forms and documents section where you will find the most recent membership surveys from 2006-2017, including a slide show of membership trends over time. A documents section contains information about conventions, council, governing board, committees, graphic standards and archives. An ivory and rosewood regulatory issues section deals with import and export. A classified ad section lists items for sale and wanted, help wanted, service, training, and videos of various types.

My.ptg.org has many communities such as Pianotech, CAUT, PTG-L, Council Long-Range Planning, health-related issues, chapter newsletters, harpsichord, hammers, in the shop, piano history, piano jobs, piano marketplace, etc. Members can download nine years of Journal PDFs and over 530 archived issues of journals from the AGT, NAPT, ASPT and the first issue of the PTG Journal.

Paul Adams mentioned that the value of PTG membership cannot be overstated and includes many benefits. Here are some of them.

  • In Person: The PTG Convention & Institute, regional conferences, chapter technicals, Home Office seminars, mentoring/tutoring, exam prep classes, vendor-based seminars, the Journal, informal gatherings at conventions, networking through local chapters.
  • Online: PTG website, virtual Journal video and audio, YouTube videos, Google AdWords, PTGE- News, Piano World discounted $100 ad (save $79), piano learning center, registration discounts, my.ptg.org discussion groups, mobile applications, PTG Store online discounts, Chapter Toolkit, industry resources, member directory, Associate scholarships from the PTG Foundation, PTGF disaster relief, discounted business listings on PianoBuyer.com ($69, regularly $95), 10% discount at Pianosupplies.com, Amazon Smile program.
  • Merchandise: Books, CDs, technical bulletins, reminder cards, pins and iron-on logos, graphics standards manual, RPT business aids, technical exam prep book, tuning exam prep book, reciprocity with teachers’ associations, (e.g., MTNA), PACE lesson plans, Music Trades magazine, discounted subscription musictrades.com, business and marketing downloadable materials, and customer information brochures (“How Often Should My Piano Be Serviced?”, “How Should I Take Care of My Piano?” and “The Special Care and Maintenance of the Teaching Piano”).
  • Other benefits include access to a PTG credit card, credit card processing, business insurance, health insurance, life insurance, publication discounts, and car rental discounts.
Our marketing efforts over the years can be aided and abetted by your consistent use of the RPT logo in your advertising on all your stationery and business cards. Use of all our other marketing materials will create a professional ambiance for your business.  

I look forward to hearing from all of you about any of the issues I have presented. Feel free to send me your thoughts at pres@ptg.org.

Season’s greetings everyone!

November 2017


Volunteering to Become an Examiner

Paul Brown, RPT
PTG President

Why would anyone want to take time out from a busy schedule to give tuning and technical exams? For one thing, it can be a learning experience; not everyone does things the same way. Secondly, examining an Associate member can be very gratifying when that person becomes an RPT.

Before a tuning exam can take place, the exam piano must be prepped and master-tuned. Assisting examiners in creating a master tuning is an invaluable experience. It is fascinating watching them demonstrate their individual interval checks so the master tuning is the best it can be. I have incorporated many aural checks that I have observed in the exam room into my own tuning repertoire. The best place to experience a master tuning is at the PTG convention. The prep session is open to all interested members, but space is limited.

During aural verification of an exam, an examinee is asked to confirm the positioning of notes that show errors after being read by an ETD. It is not uncommon that some examinees will use checks that are unusual but seem to work well for them. In cases like these, the examinee can unwittingly become the teacher to the examiners who are observing.

To become a Certified Tuning Examiner (CTE), you have to score 90% or higher in all sections of the tuning exam without the use of an ETD. Then you have to demonstrate proficiency in administering all parts of the exam while being observed by a CTE.

Administering technical exams can be instructional as well. Examinees are asked to demonstrate everyday repair proficiencies and basic skills in regulating grand and upright action models. When the models and jigs go back to the examiners for scoring, they quickly note whether examinees know their craft, or if they may require more coaching so they can be better prepared to retake the exam in the near future. Some examinees stand out from others with regard to demonstration of workmanship. Examinees’ explanations of particular repair methods can sometimes surprise examiners, who may later incorporate new techniques into their own practice.

I wrote an editorial for the Journal in June 2008, “Examining at the PTG Convention – More Fulfilling Than You Can Imagine.” In it, I stressed that exams must always be fair, impartial and professionally proctored. Examiners are always hoping for the best results, but are aware of the stressful atmosphere that the examinee is in. 

To sum up the value of becoming an examiner:

1. You help create new RPTs.
2. You build aural tuning and verification skills.
3. You incorporate new technical skills into your own knowledge base.
4. You develop and practice fairness, impartiality and professionalism.
5. It’s a gratifying experience.

Next month I will discuss the value of PTG membership. Here is one example of what is available: <https://tinyurl.com/ybldayh6>

I look forward to hearing from all of you about any of the issues I have presented. Feel free to send me your thoughts at pres@ptg.org.


October 2017


Communication – The Rule of Seven

Paul Brown, RPT
PTG President

I was talking to Regional Vice President Bill Davis at the convention in July about communicating with the membership. He asked me if I had ever heard of  the rule of seven.  Apparently, the movie industry came up with the idea long ago and noticed that if they advertised a new production to the public seven times, the message would finally get through. 

Recently I sent a personal invitation to most of the PTG membership by email about joining the new Council Long Range Planning (CLRP) community. Some might think that the process of sending out personal invitations this way, taking two weeks in total, was a waste of time. After all, I had the opportunity to have Home Office send the communication with the click of a button. (Note: Invitations were only sent to members who have valid email addresses.) 
I decided to take the long route because I wanted to investigate how each chapter was doing with regard to membership numbers, chapter officer ranks, valid email addresses and whether or not members had websites. It is always a good idea for members to check their personal profiles for errors on www. ptg.org by going to the member area and then clicking on “View My Profile.” There are quite a number of members who do not have email addresses or websites. If you have received this issue of the Journal, then your information should be up to date. 

At the time of this writing, I see that 2,867 members who received invitations have not responded. That’s entirely fine with me. After all, many members have family and business commitments and are not able to participate. Others may only be interested in piano technology information and are not concerned about the long-range planning of the organization. However, the more members that we have participating, the better the prospects of having an excellent plan to work on for the future of PTG.

Regional vice presidents sent out their newsletters in early August. Their membership was informed about convention happenings and regional news in addition to the new CLRP community.
I will have accomplished the advertising objective of the rule of seven by the time of the next Council meeting. Have a look at the time frame of notifications below: 

July 13: First notice to the membership of the CLRP community.
August 8: Notices in RVP newsletters.
August – May: Notices placed in each monthly PTG E-News.
September 1: Notice in the Journal.
September, November, February and May: Notices placed in the PTG Leader Letter. October: Notice in the Journal.
May: Notice placed in the council delegate book.

Next month I will discuss volunteering to become an examiner.  The current list of exam locations can be found here:

I look forward to hearing from all of you about any of the topics I have presented. Feel free to send me your thoughts at pres@ptg.org. 



September 2017


Long-Range Planning – The Forum is Open

Paul Brown, RPT
PTG President

This year’s council meeting ended earlier than expected on Monday afternoon. Council passed Proposal 2, thereby moving the governance of PTG from council to the PTG executive board. The new bylaws state: “Council shall have rights and duties to participate with the PTG board of directors in long-range planning activities.”

At the end of the council meeting, Phil Bondi asked delegates if they would like to return the next day to discuss long-range planning in a forum environment. Most of them agreed and appeared anxious to discuss the future of PTG. Before leaving, delegates were asked to suggest topics that were most important to them.

The next day, each delegate that suggested a topic was chosen as a group leader so that further discussion could take place. After ten minutes of discussion, group representatives came to the microphone and added specific bullet-point items to their subject titles that would be included in an online community forum.

At the time of this writing, the list is:

Appropriate time limits for exam retakes
Associate voting rights
Branding of the PTG logo
Concerns and goals of ETSC
Define: What is a piano?
How PTG relates to non-member technicians
Increasing membership numbers
Increasing membership participation
Increasing PTG’s role in the education of technicians, mentorship and apprenticeship
Increasing the perceived value of membership
Increasing the profile of PTG with the music industry and general public
Most recent long-range planning report from the board
Nurturing young leadership
The effects of culture and technology on the piano industry and our future

I have added a new forum community on my.ptg.org, titled Council Long Range Planning. The direct link is http://my.ptg.org/communities/community-home?communitykey=da2494ed-904c-400c-9629-bc85587a8e22&tab=groupdetails

If you have never logged into my.ptg.org, you will be asked to provide your PTG user name and password. If you don’t know that information, click on the link “forgot login” and you will be asked to provide membership information to gain access.

The PTG executive board has been working on long-range planning for quite some time. The most notable example is “Vision 2001.” It was included as the March 1996 Journal supplement (not on the PTG DVD) that was sent to the membership. Leon Spier said it best when he titled his Executive Outlook editorial, “Strategic Planning – Now It’s Your Turn.”

I look forward to hearing from all of you about any of the topics I have presented. Feel free to send me your thoughts at pres@ptg.org



August 2017


Sixty Years and Counting

Paul Brown, RPT
PTG President

It’s hard to believe that 60 years ago, the National Association of Piano Tuners and the American Society of Piano Technicians merged to form The Piano Technicians Guild. The process took years of negotiation and a certain amount of trust to ensure the new organization would endure the test of time. 

Thirty-eight years ago, the International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians was formed. It has been our pleasure to be their host this year in St. Louis, and we look forward to the IAPBT convention in two years.

The viability of our organization can be measured in many ways: management, communication, volunteerism, membership and certification. Now is the time to review these subjects to see how we are doing. Future articles in this space will discuss what action needs to be taken for the sake of our organization.

The Piano Technicians Guild is extremely well managed. We own our own building, have no debts, and are financially secure. 

The  Home Office communicates regularly with the membership by email, e-newsletters, the Leader Letter, questionnaires, surveys and the Piano Technicians Journal. Other membership information is available on www.ptg.org and my.ptg.org. How do we know that all members are receiving the communication? For email users, there is a way to determine who is clicking on links and viewing the information, but for snail mail, we have no idea if the material is being read. Currently, the response rate for membership surveys is not what it needs to be. It is very difficult for an organization to plan if many of its members don’t provide input.

We need volunteers to fill committee and chapter leadership positions every year. It is understandable that many members with families feel they will not be able to devote sufficient time to be effective committee members. On the other hand, there are many long-time volunteers who continue to give as much time as possible, even though they risk burnout. Not all volunteer positions require meeting attendance. Having a computer with email access is usually sufficient to communicate and fulfill the requirements of a committee position. 

When PTG first formed in 1957, John Travis, PTG’s first co-president, wrote that PTG would be “an initial powerful, influential, and effective organization of over a thousand members.” Over time, our organization grew to a membership of over 4,000. However, membership numbers have been dropping over the last number of years. Currently, the number of PTG members is 3,409. Amazingly, the average age of piano technicians seems to be relatively stable over time. In April of 1950 the American Society of Piano Technicians magazine mentioned, “The average age of a man in this industry is 57 years.” According to the latest survey, the average age of a PTG member today is about the same.

Certification is becoming an area of great concern. When we lose examiners, we also lose exam venues, thereby making it much more difficult for Associate members to upgrade. In the last eight years, we have lost over 40 examiners. Have a look at the totals below:

2009 CTEs (64) and TECs (87) Total = 151
2014 CTEs (52) and TECs (72) Total = 124
2017 CTEs (53) and TECs (57) Total = 110

I look forward to hearing from all of you about the issues I have presented. Feel free to send me your thoughts at pres@ptg.org



July 2017


One More for the Road

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

The time has come. History will determine whether my time with the gavel was well spent for this organization, or if I was just another empty suit with a tuning lever. When I started 20 years ago, if you had told me that I would spend almost half of my professional life on the PTG board of directors, five of them with the executive committee and two of those five as president, I probably would have put the tuning lever down and headed for the hills. Some well-respected individuals have guided, helped, prodded, and pleaded with me to run for elected office. As much as I enjoy keeping things light, I took that vote of confidence seriously, and I kept it in mind when decisions needed to be made, popular or not. 

In these last 24 months as your president, I have set a goal to bring us together. There was some disconnect around the organization. I hope the pieces are starting to come back together, because there is truth in the statement that a united organization will succeed. 

I’ll be honest and say that in two years, not everything can get done, and some things may take an unexpected turn. Sometimes it takes longer than a two-year tenure to accomplish goals, but my hope is that the pieces are in place for unity to continue to grow. In some cases, it was simply asking people to do their jobs, whatever those jobs were.

I will have your back if you simply do your job. This office had to defend that statement more than once. In some cases, it was making sure the lines of communication remained open. I did a lot of listening and spoke up when it was needed—otherwise, you most likely didn’t hear from me. Just because I wasn’t saying anything doesn’t mean I was deaf to a subject or didn’t care. In this position, you need to care about everything. 

There are a couple of pieces of unfinished business for me. One is to preside over this year’s council, and another is to be a joyous master of ceremonies elsewhere at our upcoming convention. I hope you will be reading this before heading to St. Louis. I look forward to seeing the “usual suspects,” and I always look forward to making a new friend or four to add to that list! 

I have had a lot of help go along with me in this presidency. If history says it was a success, my taking full responsibility for that would be foolish, because it has truly taken a village to make it happen.

Thank you. It has been an honor to serve the Piano Technicians Guild in the elected positions you trusted me with.



June 2017


Looking Back and Moving Forward

Phil Bondi, RPT
PTG President

Hello, everyone.

The title is a play on words we’ve all heard before. As my tenure winds down, I find it becoming more difficult to provide readable content for this space. I could mention my 20-year pin and how instrumental PTG has been in my development and the success of my business, but that seems self-serving. I have written about next month’s convention in St. Louis and how Lisa Weller will be presenting an event that will be hard to match in years to come. Council attendance has been mentioned for its importance this year as we decide how the organization will be governed in the future. Instead, let’s take a step back and reflect on this presidency. 
Here is a portion of my Executive Outlook that was written back in October of 2015:

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 (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

The one thing that has been important to me for the health of the organization is us working together and allowing people to do their jobs without hindrance or the feeling they are being micro-managed. It has been quite easy to accomplish this, since there is trust from this chair when I look at the committees, the Home Office, or the RVPs. Here is an excerpt from my report to this year’s council that sums it up nicely:

When I assumed the presidency, there was something I needed to accomplish, and hopefully I have. I felt there was an air of disconnect between the Foundation and the ETSC in their relationship to the board. One of the first actions I took as president was to establish communication between Foundation President Bruce Dornfeld and then Claude Harding, and ETSC Chair Keith Kopp. I had never worked on a committee or worked directly in any way with either Bruce or Claude before. That first year as president was kind of a blur, but the relationship with Bruce and the Foundation had begun. Again, having never worked directly with Claude before did not dissuade me. I knew from a private conversation one time at an airport that Claude and I shared a love for baseball. That was enough for us to start. I worked with Keith on a committee as the vice-president and we could not be more fortunate to have him as the chair of our testing committee. In my initial conversation with each of them, I promised to keep them both in the loop as far as the workings of the board. In kind, they have done the same with me, and I now believe your next president is in a much better position to work with these two very important sections of our organization. The one thing that was kept front and center was that the Foundation is us (thanks Laura), and the ETSC tests people that want to become a part of us. Hopefully the division I felt coming into the position has been closed.

This has been another important part of my job—making sure people felt heard and informed. Hopefully this is “mission accomplished,” because without that, divisions become all too apparent. While I will admit to not being perfect, the process of collaboration is how I hope to be remembered.

Lead with your arms wide open and accepting. It’s what’s best for us.



May 2017



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


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.