• 1.  Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-21-2022 11:34

    We have a new piano faculty member starting this fall and he will be bringing his own Steinways (D & B) to use in his teaching studio (for reasons of convenience).
    Do any of you techs deal with a situation like this?  If so, do you have a written policy for regular maintenance & tunings?
    For us, we've agreed on the regular maintenance during the semester, but there might be a point where it will need more extensive work done.  And since the piano is not an asset of the University, there needs to be policy written to solidify the agreement.
    So I need to write one up and was hoping to find a good outline from another school to use as a blueprint.
    If you can, forward me any recommendations.

    Dave Foster, RPT
    Michigan State University

  • 2.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-21-2022 12:02
    Hi Dave-

    I have no written policy because this is not allowed in my world. Is Michigan State OK with housing these two instruments from a risk standpoint? I would consult with Risk Management and see what they require. It seems there would have to be a need by the university for these instruments to house them. Tuning and maintenance of these personal instruments by a University employee on company time is normally not allowed, regardless of their use for University purposes. Doing this for the convenience of the faculty throws up yet more red flags. I am sure you are already overburdened with things to do, and taking in two instruments sight unseen when who knows how much baseline work will be required/asked for is a recipe for disaster.In addition to the time interfacing with all the cohorts involved and the emails and documents that will have to be created for this to proceed. Offering to work on them privately in off time is also ethically murky.
    I hope this works out well for you, but for me  it is something with too many variables and potential landmines to undertake for convenience sake.
    My 0.02c


    David C. Brown RPT
    Garland TX

  • 3.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-21-2022 12:34

    We don't currently have piano faculty using their own pianos but we are using a harpsichord that is owned by a faculty member. That was a matter of convenience since he likes to have it available in the Chapel and it is too much bother moving the other one back and forth from the recital hall regularly.  In any case, we have an unwritten agreement that significant work like restringing or larger restoration is his responsibility, but I take care of tuning and regular maintenance for performances.  It's understood that the instrument may wear out faster being used by the institution, but he benefits from having it serviced much more often and available when he wants it.  Years ago, before my time, there was a piano faculty member who used his own Steinway M in the studio and then donated it after he retired.  Once it became property of the department we had it fully restored and is in a voice studio now.  No question this could be a tricky situation, depending on the people involved and the state of your inventory.

    hope that helps,

    Dennis Johnson
    Piano Technician / Music
    St. Olaf College
    Office: 507-786-3587Mobile: 612-599-6437 
    1520 St. Olaf Avenue Northfield, MN 55057

  • 4.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-21-2022 15:30

    I would think that the institution would want to make certain that the faculty member owning the instruments has them properly insured. If there is a fire, for instance, would the institution be liable for damage to them?

  • 5.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-21-2022 12:23
    I agree with David. The first I would do is have a four way conversation with the faculty member, the chair of your department, and someone from the university’s insurance department. This is not just taking care of his instruments on university time, but also the liability factors.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 6.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-22-2022 09:13
    I realize I and NIU may have an unusual relationship, but over 39 years as either a full time employee or contractor situations like this have been quite simple to handle. Currently NIU has two pianos on long term loan from private clients of mine, who do not have a place to use their instruments, and a used D on loan from a piano shop that also did not have room to display it.
    Paperwork is simple: one page stating that the instrument is on loan to the university for educational purposes, the owner will cover the instrument with a rider on their homeowners policy, and we in turn will take care of any routine maintenance and tuning. The two pianos from clients are on long term loans, in one case up to 10 years, in the other until the client passes away, with a stipulation that when the loan is to end they must wait until the end of the semester so we don’t have to deal with a piano move during class sessions. Both of the loaners are not likely to need any major work while they are at NIU, but if they did that would be the owner’s responsibility. The D is on loan with the stipulation that I restore the pedal trapwork to standard NY system, as it had a Pianodisc system installed by the original owner. That is our “ rental” cost. We did not pay to move it in, and will not be paying to move it out, whenever that occurs. Or perhaps we get lucky and a donor gives us funds to buy it. NIU did pay for moving the two private pianos in, and the agreement states that the owner will pay to move them out when the time comes. Those are the current pianos, but we’ve done this on several occasions before, without issue. Presumably this teacher wants to bring their own pianos in because 1) they won’t have room in apartment/ home and/or 2) they really like their instruments, not because they are falling apart and need immediate rebuilding. Since the pianos will be in their studio, they’ll be the one using them, along with their students.
    I would have your director handle the paperwork and any meeting with the piano teacher- if something does go wrong, they’ll be the one to handle any fallout, not you. You will want to meet with the teacher to “ get to know the pianos”,discuss prior work etc.

    David Graham
    Graham Piano Service, Inc.
    512 S. Main St.
    Sycamore IL 60178

  • 7.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-22-2022 09:30
    Hi Dave,

    Over the years, I have seen this situation repeated numerous times and for various reasons in more than one place, both private and public.   Imagine for a moment an institution that would require all teachers to work only with school issue-owned violins, clarinets, flutes, socks, shoes and so on....ugh.  This is an opportunity for you to build a positive and productive working relationship with this new piano faculty including his or her two pianos.  As you work to set the boundaries and expectations of piano service and maintenance that will be available from your department, you should also include the presence and involvement of a third party administrator, probably the dean or chair of the piano department and the new faculty member as you map out this arrangement.  Professional musicians generally carry appropriate insurance on their personal instruments as they understand the associated risk of moving or using their personal instruments, this situation should be no different.

    I hope this helps.


  • 8.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-22-2022 09:47
    A thought just occurred to me that might be taken into consideration. What would happen if the faculty member doesn't like your tuning? Would she be allowed to hire her former tuner? (Hey, things like that do happen).  Just asking the question. 

  • 9.  RE: Personal Piano usage of Faculty

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 06-22-2022 11:17
    Hi, all,

    This happened 3 times over the 30 years I was at Cal State Long Beach. I am in agreement, it can be loaded with potential problems. We were lucky I guess, all 3 situations resolved themselves pretty naturally with no ill effects. It’s true that it causes no questions when a faculty brings in a privately owned violin, so logic would seem to apply to his or her piano as well, right? (Except that she can take her violin home at night, or take it out when it needs service, hmmm..)

    There are two piano teaching studios, each with a D and a B. Two of the faculty had personal, older D’s and no room to store them at times. We put the resident D’s on their sides in storage (which cut down on their wear, anyway) and they paid to move their own D’s into the two studios. Not at the same time, but they did overlap for several years. There was a simple letter to the Chair, a document of understanding, that the pianos were insured by their owners, the only work performed by the staff technician would be tunings on the usual schedule that would have occurred in that room anyway, and any further work would be the responsibility of the owner. The owners accepted the fact that their personal instruments would have additional wear while being used in a studio. Keep in mind that this was 25 years ago, and would be unlikely to happen in the same way now.

    In one case, a D needed extra work and an outside technician (someone I happened to know well) did some extra work. That situation gives school officials the heebie-jeebies, if they become aware of it, since it introduces questions of access, liability and that whole universe. And of course, there was no question of me doing work in that space, taking money even if on my own hours. (In California, it is illegal to use state property, even if it’s only the room itself, for private gain.)

    In another case, a person outside the school suddenly lost his private studio rental and had an emergency request to house his CFIII in a large rehearsal room, with the understanding that students could use it in more limited fashion. He was completely responsible for its care. We accepted the plan, and it was convenient for a year or two, since it provided piano majors a space for two-piano practice. The piano was locked and the head piano faculty held the key. But it got weird when the owner requested that only the “better” students use the piano. Faculty were unwilling to create a caste system of “better” students since that automatically creates “lesser” students too. We asked him to remove the piano as soon as he was able, which was about 3 months later.

    I see many comments that show people are aware of the things that can go wrong. As schools get more and more aware of litigation, legal coverage becomes one of their main concerns in unusual situations.