Executive Outlook

May 23

David Stoneman

For Solutions, Look Close to Home

By David Stoneman, RPT
Secretary-Treasurer, PTG

I’ve been reading for most of my life that acoustic pianos are, if not dead, on their way out, to be fully replaced by their ever-improving electric counterparts. I don’t believe that will happen. The electronic instrument’s goal is to imitate the acoustic instrument as closely as possible, and it does, but the imitation won’t ever BE the original. And the original, acoustic instrument will always need our care. I don’t believe our profession is threatened or that there will be, in my lifetime or any current member’s lifetime, an end to traditional piano maintenance.

When discussing the Guild, the current state of the organization tends to lead the conversation. Predictions become dire in an instant and the “end of our organization as we know it” is pronounced to be imminent and unavoidable. That’s certainly one possibility. The world changes, the economy changes, and how our career is seen by the public changes. But pianos will continue. I’ve been working in piano technology for barely 15 years, so I missed the glory days of the early 1990s when membership numbers were over 4,000. That’s a healthy number that may be difficult to get back to from our current ranks of just over 3,000, but I believe the Guild will continue, though it may go through some needed, unforeseeable changes.

As a guild, we work to codify best practices for piano care, to share efficiencies, to increase profitability, and to support each other technically, professionally, and emotionally. We do this at the national convention and institute and at the regional conferences. Most importantly, we do this at chapter meetings.

I joined the Guild for one reason: As a beginner, I needed more than books to learn the profession. At 50, I wasn’t going to go to a school. The person who had taken care of my piano stated that he was simply too busy to tutor me, but he did offer to take me to my first Guild chapter meeting. I found this to be the key to unlocking the reality of what I was previously only able to read about. Tuning, regulation, and, in time, voicing all became real to me at the monthly local chapter meetings.

I learned about the regional and national conventions, but money was tight, making travel to them out of the question. But I could spend one evening a month at a chapter meeting. In my case, it even came with a free meal sponsored by whichever of the local dealers was hosting us that month. In time, I was encouraged or even prompted to ask questions. All questions were granted answers — sometimes voluminous answers, sometimes contradictory answers — but my willingness to absorb information was met by a flood of well-intentioned expertise. The chapter meetings were indispensable to my start in the business, and the chapter remains indispensable to me today.

As the Guild moves into the future, however it works as a whole, the only real threat to its existence would be if it should fail on the local level. The health of the chapter is the true pulse of the organization. It’s at the chapter level that we form our most intimate professional relationships with other practitioners of the craft. At this local level, we best measure our progress. And it is at the local level that we are best able to show our welcoming attitude to those who might be interested in making their own attempt at our art. If the Guild is to expand, this is where expansion will happen.

It’s at the chapter meetings where newcomers find out if piano tuning will be a good career fit for them. It’s there that they find that their fellow techs can be a support system for developing the craft and a business. Who wouldn’t be attracted to this supportive and welcoming situation? It’s at the chapter level that the Guild can best recruit new members. Any national effort aimed at enlisting new members can’t compare to the advances that can be made by having chapters look to the potential new members in their own area: people they may already know, and some already in the business, who are interested in finding more ways to improve their talents and skills in the business.

Make your chapter a more active and welcoming place. This is where growth will happen.

April 23

Jim Fariss

Embrace Change

By Jim Fariss, RPT
PTG Vice President

In my former life as an aerospace engineer, the company I worked for got on the bandwagon with the latest efficiency programs, like Continual Process Improvement (CPI), and catch phrases, such as “empowering the employee,” or “think smarter, not harder.” As an engineer with real work to do, I resented being forced to spend time attending training on these flash-in-the-pan programs. One saying in particular puzzled me: “embrace change.” What’s wrong with the way we’ve been doing things for years, even decades? Why fix something that’s not broken?

The reality is that the world continues to change both technically and socially. No company or organization is immune to that change, even our own Piano Technicians Guild.

Technology Evolves

In the late 1970s, a small company called VisiCorp created the first spreadsheet computer program called VisiCalc, released for use on the Apple II. Two years later, IBM launched a competing program called Lotus 1-2-3. Lotus greatly outmatched VisiCalc, and VisiCorp, which failed to innovate further, faded out almost overnight; it was bought by Lotus and discontinued.

From the 1980s into the 90s, Lotus was the standard for spreadsheets, databases, and word processing. Lotus was on top of their game. Their offerings were fine just the way they were until…Windows, or Microsoft, if you prefer. Lotus never saw the graphical user interface of Windows as serious competition and gave little effort to embracing that new technology. In the early 1990s, Microsoft surpassed Lotus, which never recovered. Just as Lotus bought VisiCorp, Microsoft purchased Lotus and discontinued its programs.

Society Evolves

Many once-accepted societal norms have evolved to be unacceptable, often due to some major event. This is not to say that everyone accepts or agrees with those changes, but rather that society as a whole does. Consider, for example, the American Civil War, which ended the broad acceptance of slavery as a practice, or the Civil Rights Movement 100 years later, which helped change attitudes about racism and segregation. World War II provides another example of changing societal norms, as it opened up workplace opportunities for women, who had previously been expected to stay home and raise children.

The PTG Evolves

In the realm of technology, even before there was a PTG, there were electronic tuning devices, starting with the Stroboconn in 1936. In the almost 90 years of these ETDs’ existence, they have developed into powerful tools used by most piano tuners today. That development will only continue, and the PTG must be prepared to adapt to those changes or find our exam going the way of VisiCalc and Lotus.

Let me stress, there is absolutely no effort currently underway to change our RPT tuning exam. What is being discussed is the dual challenge of the declining number of examiners combined with the advancement of ETDs. How does the PTG manage that change?

The PTG’s social characteristics and demographics have also changed. The average age of PTG members continues to increase, from 55 in 2006 to 59 in 2017, with the number of women members constant around 12%. If we keep on that trend line, the PTG will literally die out.

For the PTG to be a healthy, vibrant organization that grows and thrives, we need to be aware of changing attitudes and norms. Our PTG online communities have had spirited discussions concerning ethics, inclusiveness, gender, and even religion. These same issues have been around forever and, because we are all human, will never fully resolve. What the conversations have accomplished is bringing these issues to the light of day.

The over 3,000 members of the PTG are some of  the most friendly, helpful people you will ever get to meet and work with. When someone asks about joining the PTG, my response is always, “Everyone shares their knowledge with anyone, without hesitation.” That is the PTG I know.

March 23

Marc Poulin


By Marc Poulin, RPT
PTG President

Many are familiar with the life and story of George Mallory (June 1886 – June 1924), the English climber who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s.

Mallory was a student at Winchester College when a teacher recruited him for an excursion in the Alps. During this trip, he discovered his strong natural ability for climbing. After graduating, he became a teacher, though continued to hone his skills as a climber in the Alps. He served in the army during World War I and fought at the Somme.

After the war, Mallory returned to teaching but soon resigned in order to participate in the 1921 British Mount Everest expedition to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. In 1922 he took part in a second attempt, during which his team achieved a record altitude of 26,980 ft (8,225 m) without supplemental oxygen. When asked by a reporter why he wanted to climb Everest, Mallory famously replied, “Because it’s there.” During their 1924 summit attempt, Mallory and his climbing partner disappeared on the northeast ridge of Everest.

Why am I repeating this story? While we don’t expect piano technicians to die on their mountains, Mallory is a prime example of perseverance in the face of adversity, which we can all learn from. After multiple failures, he continued to push forward. How many technicians fail to push forward in the face of adversity? This is seen most often in two areas of piano technology: aural tuning and voicing.

In my conversations with technicians at conventions over the years, quite often they speak of not being able to aurally tune or voice a piano. Getting deeper into the conversation, it becomes clear that it is not so much their inability to do the skill, but their fear of getting out of their comfort zone and thus hesitating to dig in and actually learn the skill. For many, aural tuning and voicing are part of the daily job of piano service, but for many others, mastering these skills is their personal Mount Everest. It’s a goal for many and they dream of climbing it — yet fail to do so. Why is this the case? I cannot answer this question, as it’s a very personal matter for everyone. What can we do about it?

For those whom I’ve tutored, it usually comes down to failing to take the time to get out of their comfort zone and practice these skills. I don’t have the time. I don’t want to damage the piano. I don’t have someone to help me. Insert excuse here.

Climbing your mountain takes time. It takes effort. Every day on every piano, take 15 minutes to tune a handful of intervals aurally. Tune the temperament. Tune a few octaves. Check it with your machine and see where you are. You don’t need an examiner or RPT with you to take those steps every day at every piano. Invest a little time in yourself.

The same goes for voicing. Finish your tuning and regulation touch-up. Pick out three or five notes that sound “off.” Even if you are a newbie, you will know what that sounds like. Do a little voicing. Try some needling, filing, and fitting the hammer to the string. It’s easier than you think to make a large difference in the tone without a whole lot of effort.

However, any growth requires you to take that first step. It requires you to take a few steps every day. If you truly commit to trying every day, you will quickly find that your Mount Everest is not some impossible goal and that you won’t die on the slope while attempting it. It’s a goal that every technician should strive for, not only because it’s there, but because it’s worth it. Persevere in the face of adversity, and you will thank yourself someday.

Feb 23

David Stoneman

It's Time to Make a Statement

By David Stoneman, RPT
PTG Secretary-Treasurer

We are about pianos. We are a group of people who are drawn together because we care about the maintenance of these wonderful musical instruments. In the past, we have been as many as 4,000 members; currently, we have just over 3,000. That’s still a lot of people. We have old members, new members, well-to-do members, and financially strapped members. We have members of many different backgrounds, varied religious beliefs, and a broad spectrum of gender identities. And all of us are about pianos. We are pink ones, we are green ones, we are blue ones, and yellow ones, but we’re not all made of ticky-tacky and we’re not all just the same. (My apologies to Malvina Reynolds, composer of the song “Little Boxes.”) But we are, all of us, about pianos.

It’s February, and the winter board meeting has just concluded. After more than 60 years, it is likely that our governing documents will now include a clause that notes our diversity as individuals and our willingness to include piano-interested individuals of all types as members. Back in 1957, the idea of an inclusivity statement was outside of the Guild’s founders’ understanding of the universe. Our mission is to promote the industry’s highest possible standards by providing members with every opportunity for professional development, recognizing and promoting technical competence through examinations, and advancing the interests of each of our members. We have other documents that state that we act democratically, and nearly all of the instructions on how we are to communicate explain that we are to be respectful and keep the communications about pianos. In the subtlest way possible, these statements and policies imply that we are inclusive in our membership and accepting of all who wish to join and learn more about the care of pianos. We are about pianos.

When I first joined the organization, someone told me that the PTG is a diverse group and that if we were to see a look-alike for Pee-wee Herman walk across the convention floor, it’s most likely that no one would bat an eye. This is a kind of inclusivity, although of a passive sort. As I say, some form of inclusivity statement has likely been added to our documents at the winter board meeting. With any luck and many hours of consideration and discussion, the board has crafted wording to cover inclusivity that will work well for the health of the Guild and the peace of mind and sense of safety of each of its members. The need for such a statement is likely well overdue, and the current understanding of any organization’s obligations to its members makes it obvious that it should be addressed now.

Is it perfect? I can’t know that. As I’m writing this in December, I don’t know what we’ve managed to accomplish at the winter board meeting. The work of the board often moves slowly, perhaps frustratingly so. This is partly because we have an obligation to move correctly and for the good of the Guild and its members. My own hope is that we’ve managed to create a statement that is fully inclusive. This often means a more vague and simple language than some would want, and it should be attached to our mission statement as part of corporate policies. These are the tenets of a well-conceived diversity statement.

We are a cross section of society; every kind of person can learn piano technology. Society has come to recognize that there are marginalized individuals that can be aided by reassurances that they are safe and included. It is time that we recognize this and make a statement saying so. If we can all feel included, then we can all continue to pursue our passion and our living.

We are, after all, about pianos.

Jan 23

Jim Fariss

Can We Try?

By Jim Fariss, RPT
PTG Vice President 

When I retired from a 30-year career in aerospace, my wife, Sandy, told me that I could retire but that I needed to find something to do. I was not allowed to hang around the house. She was right — as an anal-retentive engineer, I’d probably end up alphabetizing the spice rack.

In my previous career, we sometimes faced major changes in the way we did things. One such instance was an entirely new computer and operating system. The crews would ask, “What was wrong with the old one?” The operations manager (a position I would later assume at a European facility) would listen to the complaints about having to learn something new, smile, and ask, “Can you try?” The new system was coming whether we liked it or not, so the choice was: “Be part of the change and thrive, or be left behind wondering why your position was phased out.” I have always liked that phrase, and I use it as the company motto for my piano business.

In 2020 the world shut down, and we all became isolated and hid in our homes. Sandy and I decided to do something absolutely absurd and crazy in 2021. We kicked around many ideas and settled on taking a motorcycle trip down Route 66.

It would be a change of pace, and only a few minor details needed to be worked out to make it happen: We had to get a motorcycle and re-learn how to ride it after a 30-year break. Other than that, what could go wrong, eh? After getting my motorcycle endorsement, I tried out various brands and decided on an Indian Roadmaster. It was easy to maneuver by myself, but I had trouble moving slowly with the two of us on board. Should we give up or can we try?

There is a company that can convert a motorcycle by adding two wheels to the front. This holds the bike upright while stopped or moving slowly, yet releases when at speed and allows the bike to lean. We had the conversion done, started off on a ride and… down we went. Give up or can we try?

I tried learning in empty parking lots and one day found myself off the lot and stuck in a muddy field. I told Sandy, “That’s it, I’m selling this thing!” Fortunately, she responded, “Not an option. What are you going to do about it?” Can we try?

I took private lessons, spent time with the designer, developed a support network, practiced, and gained experience in a deliberate and methodical way. Instead of giving up, we looked for solutions, went on that trip, and got to experience something unique and rewarding.

The piano technician profession is not immune to the major economic challenges heading our way. To help weather some of these challenges, why not expand your repertoire of piano services, such as regulation, new keytop installation, high-gloss polyester repair, string and hammer replacement, or voicing?

What’s holding you back? Don’t know where to start? Begin with your very own PTG website under the tab titled Education. Don’t have anyone to help or support you? Seek out your chapter and ask for technical topics on what you want to learn. Is your chapter inactive? Host a playground or get a few of your fellow chapter members together for a technical. Need other ideas? Contact your regional vice president — they are there to support you and your chapter.

The Piano Technicians Guild is our support network. The power to succeed, grow, and learn lies within us. Can we try?

Dec 22

Marc Poulin

Burnout, Servant Leadership, and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

By Marc Poulin, RPT
PTG President

Burnout. It’s a nasty thing, but it’s all too real in these days of irregular work schedules, lack of work/ life balance, or not taking enough personal time for your own mental health. In volunteer organizations, it could be a result of too much work with too few people to do it. How many past PTG presidents have disappeared for a few years after leaving office? If you ask any of these missing members why, the answer is usually the same: “I was burned out and just needed a little time off.” That statement can be true for many of our other hard-working volunteers.

People volunteer for many different reasons; recognition, filling space in their lives, and giving to others are common motivations. Here is another reason to volunteer that we talk about frequently in the scouting community: servant leadership.

Servant leadership is a philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from corporate leadership, where the leader’s primary focus is the health of the organization. A servant leader shares power, puts the needs of the members first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Instead of people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. As stated by the founder of the modern service leadership movement, Robert Greenleaf, a servant leader should ask, “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servant leaders?” When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they benefit just as much as their members in that their members acquire personal growth, while the organization grows as well due to the members’ growing commitment and engagement. It’s a circular process; a win for both the individual and the organization.

Greenleaf believed the betterment of others to be the true intention of a servant leader: “I serve” rather than the traditional “I lead” mentality. The “I serve” mentality is evident in people who define their role through public service. From the “I serve” mentality come two premises:

  • I serve because I am the leader
  • I am the leader because I serve.

The first premise signifies the act of altruism. Altruism is defined as the practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Greenleaf declared that servant leadership begins with the natural feeling of wanting to serve first. Only through the act of serving does the leader guide other people to fulfill their capabilities. The second premise of servant leadership begins with the ambition to lead.

In a volunteer-run organization, you can see the benefits of the servant leadership model. We are all in this together. Every member of our organization should understand that the more each of us gives to the health of the PTG and its members’ professional growth, the more each of us takes away. The more we give, the more we receive. Isn’t that the foundation of the PTG? Helping each of us grow in our knowledge and skills?

Here is where it gets tricky. Piano technicians seem to be by nature rather solitary or even introverted creatures. Stepping outside of our personal space and comfort zone can be daunting. However, for personal growth, each of us needs to stretch those boundaries. For example, every chapter looks for people to lead technicals. What subject in piano technology is your strong point? Pick that subject and develop a technical presentation. Don’t like to speak publicly? Become the chapter secretary or, better yet, the president. Push yourself into these roles to help you with growth. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Give of yourself and your talents. Push yourself to become a servant leader. You will get back more than you give.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. Serve and thou shall be served.”

Nov 22

David Stoneman

Did You Ever Consider…

By David Stoneman, RPT
PTG Secretary-Treasurer

Do you ever reflect on how the PTG benefits you as a professional piano technician? What would your world be like if the Guild didn’t exist? Of course, many of us would still be tuning, repairing, and regulating pianos. But were the Guild to  suddenly disappear, our professional world would be vastly different and greatly diminished.

No Guild would mean that we would each be lone entrepreneurs, who, through reading, schooling, or acquaintance and apprenticeship, might have managed to gather enough knowledge and skills to be competent enough to make a living as  technicians. We might have a small support group of colleagues who could answer our day-to-day questions, but a grand network of friends in the industry for support and knowledge-sharing would likely not exist.

No Guild would mean no chapters. Through the Guild, we all belong to local chapters, each of which has bylaws and a recommended structure. This helps ensure that  members  have  a  local  collective  of  colleagues  who  can socialize, share business and technical skills, and offer support to each other. This was essential to me when I started my journey as a piano technician, and my chapter still remains a foundation of my sanity.

No Guild would mean no conventions. How could such a large endeavor as our annual Convention and Technical Institute ever take place without the  organizational oversight of the Guild, the professionals at the Home Office, and the efforts of volunteers on the institute team who make the annual gathering possible?

No Guild would mean no monthly Journal. The work it takes to publish a trade magazine is extensive, and our team of editors,  together with their designer, works tirelessly to get a high-quality and informative issue out each month.

No Guild would mean no regional events. You might say, “But the regional events are independently organized and funded. Surely they could still exist!” Maybe, but prompted by whom and using what as a structure? Regional events, including the classes and the  structure, are all based on the national convention model and still require a large amount of organization. Where would the impetus come from without the Guild?

No Guild would mean no presentation of a recognized standard. Without the Guild’s standards for tuning and technical skills, there would be no “line in the sand.” Yes, schools would grant certificates of accomplishment or even degrees, but the PTG’s Registered Piano Technician designation represents a baseline level of competence that is a nationwide standard.

No Guild would mean no Foundation. The Foundation maintains a library of historical publications and periodicals, a museum of keyboard instruments and piano technician  tools, a scholarship fund, a research grant initiative, and even a disaster relief fund. What would pull all the needed energies together to create and fund such efforts were it not for the unifying umbrella of the Guild?

The Piano Technicians Guild is a large body of people with a shared interest. The Home Office staff, volunteer board  and  chapter  officers, convention instructors, the Foundation board, piano industry leaders, from instrument to tool manufacturers  —  all  are made available to you through the existence of the Guild.

Would I still be a technician without the Guild? Maybe, but I would not have a national friendship network. I would not have had the chance to discuss Pythagoras with a man from Pennsylvania, the merits of the fixed-do system of solfège with a woman from West  Virginia, or the opportunity to “time travel” with Norman Neblett and Helga Kasimoff in Las Vegas were it not for the existence of the Guild and my participation in it.

If you love the Guild, then nurture it. If you hate the Guild, then still nurture it. There are those who say it’s not for them, and for a very few that may be true. But do not tell me that it is unfixable, doomed, or not worth the effort. I have too much evidence to the contrary.

Oct 22

Jim Fariss

Performance Review

By Jim Fariss, RPT
PTG Vice President 

The term of office for the 2021-2022 board of directors you elected at the Orlando convention last year ended with the election of a new 2022-2023 board of directors at the Anaheim convention. What did your board accomplish? What worked out? What didn’t? What challenges lie ahead for the new board to tackle? Here is a summary of the board activities, with a much greater detailed report to be found on ptg.org > PTG Members > Documents. Click on Board Documents > 2022 and look in Folder Contents for Priorities and Accomplishments. Select January and August 2022.

RPT Examiners and Exams

The board approved the creation of an exam task group with instructions to create no fewer than two outlines for an alternative/ modified/new tuning exam. This need not be a completely developed procedure, but rather an outline of the main process steps and written explanation of intent for each point of process. We encourage you to read the most recent report submitted by this task group in ptg.org > PTG Members > Documents > Council Documents > 2022/2022. Select Council Agenda from the right folder.

Council Role and Board Relations

The board approved the creation of a “council as committee” task group, with the goal to provide council the authority to act as a committee throughout the year with the ability to propose, draft, debate and submit RFAs (requests for action). The RFA submitted to the pre-council board meeting can be found at ptg.org > PTG Members > Forms & Documents > Board Documents > 2022/2022 Pre-council Board Agenda.

Assessment of Member Benefits

This topic proved to be much more extensive than what could be tackled at one monthly board discussion, and, while important, must be broken up into workable tasks. This was moved to be part of the next priorities.

Recruitment – Grow Membership

On ptg.org, if you click on Become a Tech, this will lead you to an introduction video created by our marketing task group as a hook to enter your name to investigate further. The board has been reaching out to RPTs Tim Barnes and Chris LaBarre to understand what support they require to continue with this successful endeavor to draw in new members.

Education Goals – “Where do I go for training?”

People call the Home Office asking what they recommend for training. The Home Office does not have a clear response to that question. Another priority, “Collaboration with Piano Technical Educational Services,” served to address that issue.

Volunteer Recruitment and Retention, and Leadership Development

Committee members were asked to participate in writing an article for the Journal explaining what they do. The July 2022 issue has an example from the members’ rights committee.

Technical Palace – Universally Available Technical Library

The original concept was to “Provide support to chapters for technicals.” We narrowed our focus towards a campaign to highlight what information is available on our website and how to access it.

Website Improvement

Initially, we considered doing a survey. An insightful question was asked: “We’ve already received a ton of feedback about the website via our discussion groups. Why do we need more feedback?” The decision was made to not pursue another survey, but instead use our next priorities meeting to address a specific, known issue — the search function — within our website.

The search function works, but you must wade through those results to find the one applicable to your needs. Searching on the proper website would help. Ptg.org and my.ptg.org produce different results. Think of ptg.org as administrative and my.ptg.org as technical.

Your Home Office welcomes and strongly encourages your call should you have difficulty navigating our website, and encourages your complaints, concerns, and suggested improvements.

Collaboration with Piano Technical Educational Services

Fourteen piano technology schools were invited to a virtual meet and greet with the board. Six participated with the question, “How can the PTG help your school, and what can you do for the PTG?”

Michael Stillwell (Piano Technician Academy) has created a 60-second promotional video that can serve as a model for other schools wishing to make their own. It was also proposed that we modify the ptg.org home page to have a prominent button that says Schools.

When this article goes to press, a new board will have been elected that must deal with navigating new challenges in an uncertain world. Business as usual will not steer us past the icebergs looming on the horizon.

Sep 22

Marc Poulin

Change or Die

By Marc Poulin, RPT
PTG President 

Has anyone heard that phrase before? I’m sure you have at least once in your lifetime. Yes, it’s a strong phrase to be used at the start of an article from one of the representatives of your organization, but sometimes strong language gets the message across when other means fail.

I’m sure you have all heard of Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster, Blackberry, Xerox, and many other corporations consigned to the dustbin of history. Why were these once-powerful dominant corporations taken from their height of success into bankruptcy and eventual dissolution? Simple answer: failure to innovate and adapt.

The reason why major companies fail to innovate isn’t a lack of willingness to do so. Rather, the problem is that they’re too late in recognizing opportunities (and threats) because they’re too focused on sustaining their core business. History has proven that the best moment to search for innovation is when a product is at its prime. Our current membership numbers show we are not at our prime.

We constantly hear feedback, including, “Why are our member numbers shrinking? Why is convention attendance declining? Why don’t we have more young people joining the Guild?”

Does our current business model reflect what the younger generations are looking for? Our convention format hasn’t changed in decades. Our exam processes haven’t significantly changed in decades. Our chapter meetings haven’t changed in decades, other than meeting online. Our current structure best serves the generation that has been around the longest and has the loudest voices. Younger generations don’t want to be “joiners”— they want information and education, and they want it NOW! They don’t want to debate bylaws in Council, and they don’t want to argue over what method to tune is best. They want to learn how to fix pianos and have successful businesses.

The PTG used to be untouchable when it came to providing educational opportunities outside of brick-and-mortar schools. That is no longer the case. The print Journal is a core part of the PTG, but a fully digitized online version — perhaps even a stand-alone app — should be part of our vision for the future.

We provide chapter meetings, at which attendance has dropped precipitously, a situation I doubt will improve due to high gas prices. Chapters are dissolving and many are completely dysfunctional for lack of participation. We have our exams, which, once completed, award a nice title: Registered Piano Technician. But fewer members are challenging our exams, and fewer members are willing to volunteer their time to administer the exams. We have our yearly convention and technical institute, which provides a wealth of class offerings, yet this year we are predicting a record low attendance.

I have been a member of the PTG for 26 years. I love this organization for what it has provided to me. However, the last few years when my dues invoice arrives, I’ve had to ask myself, “Is PTG membership worth the cost?” I continue to pay my dues, so my answer is obviously yes. But for many, the answer is no. Why is that their answer? The PTG no longer provides what people are looking for, whatever that may be. So, what do we do about it?

We must begin to look at EVERY facet of what PTG does and determine if it provides a direct member benefit. Is it something we like to have, or is it something that some members feel good about having? A board member recently admitted that his attendance at PTG events is primarily for socializing, but he recognized that might not be enough for many younger members. Our board, council, and committee structures, our convention frequency, location, and length, our Home Office staffing and functions — all have serious issues. ALL of this must be looked at to see what needs to be changed to ensure the very survival of PTG.

Many people are upset by change. They are comfortable with the way things are. They know exactly what to expect, as they have experienced it before. It’s far past time for us to get out of this comfort zone and stop looking to the past, hoping for the days of yore to return. They are not going to. We must look to the future of the organization if we wish to have a PTG for future generations to join. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

Aug 22

David Stoneman

It’s Time to Commune

By David Stoneman, RPT
PTG Secretary-Treasurer

It’s August, and those of us who can afford the time, travel, and registration are almost certainly at the PTG’s biggest annual get-together, the 2022 Convention and Technical Institute. Here we have the opportunity to converse — not the usual course for us, we fortunate few who practice this avocation. Our daily routine nearly always puts us alone in a room with an instrument that we’re hoping to appreciatively improve in something between an hour and two hours’ time. There, in that lonely room, we turn our practiced skill into a livelihood. The product we sell is nothing more material than our ability to concentrate. It’s a lonely life, and the contrast to our annual gathering is stark.

Social scientist Brené Brown, Ph.D., tells of a community at the turn of the last century, where people would go down to the river to wash their clothes together. During the chore, they would chat, share stories, learn from each other, and feel a sense of connection through shared experiences and problems. Then came the washing machine, and not long after that, there was an outbreak of depression. This was due to the lack of social interaction from doing things together and the accompanying loss of a sense of community. The loneliness of our work can be a stumbling point for a mind not well calibrated to solitary hours. At convention we have the chance to converse with those few people who know what we each know: that the work is hard and remaining competent and current with our skills is a continual journey. Since we can’t work and chat on a regular basis, our chances to commune are cherished. Annual conventions, chapter meetings, and, in my case, a somewhat regular breakfast club are all ways to offset the loneliness.

Once, waiting outside a concert hall, I was drawn to chat with a fellow technician. People who know us both were surprised to see that we were having an animated conversation. “How did you get him to talk to you? He’s always so quiet,” they asked.

My reply was, “But he’s another piano tech. We can talk for hours about things that we can’t discuss with anyone other than another tech.” Client experiences, old pianos, new pianos, old tools, new tools — these aren’t things we can discuss with those who aren’t in the profession. Recognizing that we can only converse with each other about this job is what pulls us to the opportunity offered by the convention. Listen in the hallways, restaurants, elevators, and open spaces and you’ll hear talk — quiet talk, loud talk, some complimentary talk — and complaining — lots and lots of complaining, oh, so much complaining! Of course you will. It’s a good thing.

How can all the complaining be a good thing? We need it, and we need it to happen when we’re together. I can only imagine that it would take years for a professional therapist to get up to speed on the inner workings of a technician’s mind. Unloading, complaining, bellyaching, whatever you want to call it, can clear our minds and allow us to find ways forward that wouldn’t be open to us without the empathetic ear of another one of our own.

You can tell we’re different by the remarks we get from the non-techs we come across: “What’s your ‘real’ job? Can you do this full-time? How does a person even find a piano tuner?” And a recent favorite: “You say there are female piano technicians?” The general public, yes, the “muggles,” don’t see us or recognize us as we walk among them. We are mythic stuff to many, like unicorns. Perhaps we don’t notice or appreciate each other for the unicorns we are. That’s understandable. As members of the Guild, we spend huge amounts of time on the unicorn farm and in scheduled unicorn gatherings big and small.

If you came to the Anaheim convention, thank you for coming. Please take the information you gained back to your chapter members who couldn’t attend. That’s right, talk to them. If you didn’t make it to Anaheim, make sure to ask questions of those in your chapter who did. That’s right, again, talk to them. Please cherish your fellow technicians — talk, share, compare, complain to them, and clear your minds through the therapy of community.

July 22

Jim Fariss

Take a Swing on the Playground

By Jim Fariss, RPT
PTG Vice President

Are you responsible for presenting or scheduling your chapter technical sessions? Are you struggling to come up with a smashing new idea that will interest both experienced and aspiring technicians, but then only coming up with “Tuning that Free Craigslist Spinet Stored in a Barn”? Why not consider giving the PTG Piano Technicians Traveling Playground a try? If you have been fortunate to attend our annual conventions, we hope you took the opportunity to stop by the Playground to see what it’s all about and give some of the stations a try. The “full up” Playground covers competencies all technicians should possess, such as splicing strings, making tight coils and beckets, traveling hammers, aligning dampers, setting vertical and grand aftertouch, replacing key bushings, re-pinning flanges, making good measurements, and measuring bass strings for replacement. Whew!

RPTs Ed Sutton and John Parham deserve our thanks for dreaming up and creating the initial Playground, joined later by Sheffey Gregory, RPT, and Bill Davis, RPT. Given the enthusiasm expressed by convention participants, this team worked on making the Playground accessible to PTG members who are not able to attend the annual event. With over a dozen stations, the full Playground would be impractical to be shipped, set up, and run by just a few people. Thus, the Traveling Playground was created.

 The Traveling Playground consists of six stations found in the full Playground:

Wire Bending and String Splicing

  1. Manipulate wire of different sizes and materials.
  2. Create neat, effective string splices.

Stringing and Coil Making

  1. Create even, tight string coils.
  2. Create a hitch pin loop with #14 single-strand copper wire.
  3. Practice replacement of string with hitch pin loop.

Using Micrometers and Measuring Strings

  1. Gain confidence in using a micrometer.
  2. Measure plain wire, wound strings, and a variety of piano materials.

These stations are packaged in USPS flat-rate boxes and can be sent to any chapter. Your chapter would be responsible for the cost of return shipping.

When your board was elected last August for the 2021-2022 term in Orlando, they spent time at the playground to familiarize themselves with it. At the winter board meeting last January in Kansas City, the board spent half a day with Bill Davis, learning how to run the various stations in the Traveling Playground. Several of our regional vice presidents have since helped to run Traveling Playground technical sessions during their chapter visits.

My local Colorado Springs chapter tried out the Traveling Playground. We had an even mix of experienced and novice piano technicians, which allowed the experienced ones to assist the others. The real trick in running the playground is to watch the video associated with the exercise and then perform the task as presented. It is all too easy for those who have been doing a task for years to say, “Here’s another way to do it.” The goal is not to show all the different ways to make a coil, but rather to teach one way, and then try it.

As the day progressed, the novices got actual hands-on experience with measurements, tools, and wire. All of those with experience came away seeing a different way of doing something. In the end, everyone learned and gained something by going through the Traveling Playground.

Are you ready to give the PTG Traveling Playground a go? Sign up at ptg.org/ptgmain/education/playground. Bill Davis, that stately gentleman from Georgia whom you may have seen leading the Larry Crabb Barbershop Chorus, is officially the “Curator of Playground.” To schedule the Traveling Playground for your chapter, contact Bill at Bill@PianoPlace.net or your regional vice president.

The 2022 annual convention in Anaheim runs August 3–6, with the full Playground open for two of those days. Stay five minutes or all day. Chapter leaders are encouraged to learn how to participate.

Talk about a member benefit — the PTG Playground is definitely one of them.

June 22

Marc Poulin

Small Beginnings

By Marc Poulin, RPT
PTG President

Over the years there have been so many discussions of why our members should attend the Piano Technicians Guild Annual Convention and Technical Institute that I have lost count. Why each of us makes the decision to come to the convention is an individual concept, and what motivates any of us will not necessarily be what motivates other members. I am not going to try to convince you to attend; I will simply tell my story.

Upon becoming an RPT and graduating from North Bennet Street School in 1997, I was still in the process of becoming a Certified Tuning Examiner. I had attended two regional conferences over the previous two years, and those were fun. I had helped with exams, taken a few classes, and met a ton of people, including PTG President Marshall Hawkins, RPT. Everyone I spoke with said the same thing: “Regionals are fun, but you GOTTA get to the national.” Yes, it’s the “Annual Convention and Technical Institute,” but everyone then called it the “national” (and many still do). I spoke with Jack Stebbins, RPT, about continuing my examiner training, and he agreed that going to the convention was the quickest and best way to finish. With that encouragement, I registered for the convention in Orlando, Florida. Little did I know that 24 years later, I would be elected PTG president in that same city.

Arriving that July and walking into the hotel, I knew absolutely no one. I cautiously made my way towards the registration desk, observing the goings-on around me. There were a lot of handshakes, big smiles, little knots of people in deep conversation about what had happened in “Council” (What’s that?), and a whole lot of hugging of people walking in the door. What had I gotten myself into? Who were these people?

I eventually made it to the front of the queue and came face-to-face with Sandy Roady, with whom I had spoken exactly zero times. She greeted me like a long-lost friend with her perpetual smile and friendly greeting. There I was, five minutes after arrival, having met one of my future closest friends.

I settled into my hotel room, then set off to find the exam floor. There I found all kinds of serious people wearing these intimidating black examiner ribbons. I was introduced to Keith Kopp, RPT, the tuning exam sub-chair, who welcomed me with a smile, a handshake, and his quiet way of explaining how crazy the rest of this week would be.

Throughout that week, giving exams or wandering around during brief breaks, I met more people by the moment, people I’d heard of in conversations at school or whose names I’d read in the Journal. You know, people like RPTs Dr. Albert Sanderson, Michael Travis, Jim Coleman, Sr., Dean Reyburn, Don Mannino, Ward Guthrie — the list goes on and on. Each of them greeted me personally, and we spoke for a few moments. Most of those I met I now consider friends. Not once did I ever feel unwelcome, or that I didn’t have something to contribute that would be appreciated as a member of the organization. 

At the opening ceremony, awards were given to members for all kinds of reasons. It was impressive how well everyone got along and worked together for the betterment of the group. It seemed to be a family, and it quickly became exactly that.

By the end of my first convention week, I was a Certified Tuning Examiner. RPTs Keith Kopp and Richard Bittner (the ETSC Chair) came to me and asked if I would be interested in serving on the committee. I heartily agreed. After I had agreed, they added that since the convention would be held in my region the following year, they wanted me to be a full-time examiner.

My second convention was spent in the exam rooms. We had more time off that year than today, as the unified exam wasn’t yet a thing. We had 90 minutes between the start of an exam and scoring it, so we could wander into classes and visit with others. The introductions and conversations with people from all over the country and the world continued. Most of them became immediate friends.

A couple of days into the week, Keith Kopp walked up to me with a stack of exam forms and stated quickly, “I’ve been elected to the board. You’re in charge.” He hurried off. What had just happened? In charge of what?

That preceded ten years on the ETSC. Attending almost every convention (I missed 2003, as my son Alex was born the week before) led to spending a great deal of time with the institute team, which led to an invitation to join them. That involvement led to an invitation to run for the board, which I eventually did. Here I am, 25 years later, as the President of PTG.

I said I wouldn’t try to convince you to attend our convention and institute. However, for me anyway, great things came from taking the plunge and signing up for that first convention. It doesn’t hurt a bit, you can write it off on your taxes, you’ll learn a thing or two, and I guarantee you’ll make at least one friend. You never know where it may lead. To quote the android David from Ridley Scott’s 2012 movie Prometheus, “Big things have small beginnings.”

I hope to see you all in Anaheim.

May 22

David Stoneman

Can we talk?

By David Stoneman, RPT
PTG Secretary-Treasurer

The PTG board of directors is a group of elected individuals who are put in place to guide the workings of the organization; we are elected by you to shepherd your organization on your behalf. The PTG does what it can to offer learning opportunities, certification, and opportunities to communicate. All board members act as voices for those in their regions. The board meets twice a year to address the needs of the Guild and to vote on suggested changes to how the organization operates, in the hopes of getting it to run better. In this context, “better” can mean more efficient, more modern, broader (that is, for the betterment of more potential members), or more fiscally responsible.

Board members bring their own ideas to the table and, with the aid of the procedural guidance of Robert’s Rules of Order, discuss their concerns and the concerns of those regional members who have made the effort to contact them. Then they vote. How they vote is up to each individual board member, based on the ideas they came in with, the ideas shared from members of their region, and the ideas presented during the debate in the boardroom.

If you’re still with me, you’ll notice that key to the above discussion is the fact that the regional vice presidents are acting as your — the members’— representatives. Now the question is: What can make them the most effective representatives? Their effectiveness can only come from the members’ willing involvement with those representatives. The word we’re looking for is “communication.” The regional forums, available at my.ptg.org, are pointedly well-suited to sharing ideas regarding upcoming actions that the board might consider. Those few members who use the regional forums to contact their RVPs are represented in the boardroom, but only those few.

“Those few” is a phrase that I wish I didn’t need to use here. I’m sure that members who prefer to have a hands-off relationship with the board are pleased to have all continue as is, trusting that the Guild will move forward, and all will be well. There are a vocal few who are pleased to share their opinions on the PTG-L forum, as well as on their regional forums. It appears to be around 3% - 4% of the membership who pipe up on a regular basis and share their ideas on upcoming requests for action in advance of each board meeting.

To all who offer their opinions, thank you. But when such a small number offers input, it’s not possible to say that the board is able to “speak for the members.” I urge all members who are willing to state your opinions to communicate with your RVPs or discuss within your chapter and have your chapter president share with your RVP. Communicate.

Soon, another opportunity is coming. As we have three times in the past, the PTG will be conducting a membership survey. These surveys contain valuable information for the Guild: who its members are, how they operate their businesses, and, hopefully, what can best be done going forward to make the Guild a part of the 21st century (only 20 years later than some of us would like).

The previous survey results are available on the ptg.org website under Members > Forms & Documents > Member Surveys. There you’ll find surveys from 2006, 2012, and 2017. Have a look and perhaps you’ll be as fascinated as I was. The response to the previous surveys has been impressive, with 41.1% of members responding in 2017, 42.2% in 2012, and approximately 43% in 2006. Anything above 38% is considered an excellent response rate. With a new-found willingness on the part of the membership to express their wants to the board, it’s my hope that this year’s survey will surpass what’s considered a near-impossible response rate of over 50%. Then we can begin — just begin — to have a foundation allowing us to say that we know the will of the majority of the membership and can act on their behalf.

In the meantime, share your views with your RVPs.

Apr 22

Jim Fariss

Why RPT? Why Examiner?

By Jim Fariss, RPT
PTG Vice President

A longer but more appropriate title for this article could be, “Electronic Tuning Devices Have Been Around for Over Half a Century; I Would Take the Registered Piano Technician Exam if We Didn’t Still Insist on Requiring Aural Skills to Pass.” Indeed, why insist?

Fifteen years ago, I began preparing for a retirement career as a piano technician, making use of a correspondence course, my local chapter’s mentor technicians, and numerous conventions. I set a personal goal to achieve RPT status as a way of boosting my confidence when I tell someone, “Yes, I can tune and repair your piano.” I wanted to become an RPT for me, not to increase business.

Early on, it seemed that I would never be able to tune aurally. While others heard beats, all I could hear were two car horns blaring. I decided to focus on the technical part of the RPT exam, since I didn’t know anything about fixing a broken hammer shank, splicing strings, or adjusting the action. Besides, I could use my ETD to tune and had never had a complaint, so why worry about learning to tune aurally?

My local chapter and fellow technicians were quite supportive in helping me prepare for the technical test, and I made extensive use of the practice models and PTG source books as I worked on old pianos. I passed the technical test and am glad I have those skills, as I use every one of them in actual practice.

Now it was unavoidable: If I truly wanted to make RPT, I would have to learn aural tuning. I went to classes on basic tuning at conventions, bought DVDs and books on how to tune, tried different temperaments every which way to Sunday, and had chapter members work individually with me. Was it a struggle? You bet, but I kept after it, practicing until I finally found a temperament sequence that I could understand and that worked for me. I learned how to use my ETD to score the temperament, and along the way I discovered a heck of a lot about my ETD that I never knew.

I did not pass my first attempt at the tuning test, but it highlighted areas where I was weak. I spent so much time tuning the temperament, I didn’t leave enough time for the midrange. I thought I knew all about unisons, but by taking the exam, it was made clear I did not.

I learned to speed up my temperament, knowing when to say “good enough” and not over-test; this left me more time for the midrange. At the convention I worked with Keith Kopp, who provides private, personalized instruction, and I learned a whole new way of testing my unisons. I will always remember Keith asking me in a calm voice if a particular note was off, as I did multiple checks and replied that it was. “So, stop testing and FIX IT!”

Had the RPT exam been aural-optional, I would never have known how poorly I was using my ETD and just how off my unisons were. I re-tested, passed, and will proudly admit that I came away with a profound sense of accomplishment and a new level of confidence. I am a Piano Technician!

As I set out to build my piano business, I focused on what I was most comfortable with: repair. After over a decade of classes, private instruction, conventions, and a factory internship, I have reached a point where I am ready to resume the development of my aural skills.

My current goal is to become a Certified Tuning Examiner and, like RPT certification, it’s for personal satisfaction. To achieve that goal, I’m working with rebuilders in my area to secure an appropriate piano. I’m learning how to use my ETD to set up and score the exam, and I’m volunteering as the additional RPT at tuning exams.

Back to the question: Why does the PTG insist on aural tuning for the RPT? Because it means something: pride in your work, a level of achievement, and a sense of old-world craftsmanship that eschews electronics. How about it, members? Are you ready to show off your stuff and become an RPT? If you need a place to start, try ptg.org/members/certification.

RPTs, are you ready to up your game and become a technical or tuning examiner? Look at the December 2021 Journal for details on just that.

March 22

Marc Poulin

What's Your Elevator Speech?

By Marc Poulin, RPT
PTG President

How do we market ourselves AND the Piano Technicians Guild in a quick, efficient manner?

Many of our members have questions about the marketing of the PTG. These include:

  • Who are our customers?
  • How do we spend our marketing dollars?
  • Who are we marketing to?
  • What are we actually marketing?

The PTG has a marketing budget that is used in many ways on different platforms, marketing to varying groups depending on the priority at a given moment. However, I’ve always believed the best marketing tool the PTG has is our membership. How many interactions do we as individual members have with the public, with potential members or customers, every single day?

The definition of elevator speech from Wikipedia says:

An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statemen tis a short description of an idea, product, or company that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a short period of time. This description typically explains who the thing is for, what it does, why it is needed, and how it will get done. Finally, when explaining an individual person, the description generally explains one’s skills and goals, and why they would be a productive and beneficial person to have on a team or within a company or project. An elevator pitch does not have to include all of these components, but it usually does at least explain what the idea, product, company, or person is and their value.

An elevator pitch can be used to entice an investor or executive in a company, or explain an idea to a founder’s parents. The goal is simply to convey the overall concept or topic in an exciting way. Unlike a sales pitch, there may not be a clear buyer–seller relationship.

The name — elevator pitch — reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.

On a recent trip to a scouting event in Knoxville, I made a point of wearing my PTG mask while on the event campus. I received a number of strange looks and a few direct questions, which I took as an offer to practice my speech. While my speech is still and always will be a work in progress, it goes something like this:

“What is the Piano Technicians Guild? It’s an organization of piano technicians for education, testing, and companionship. We meet on multiple occasions in varying locations to discuss technical issues and provide advice and training for each other and with industry experts. We have a monthly Journal with educational materials and notes of interest. Members can challenge our standardized set of exams, which awards a certification hey can use in their advertising. It’s a great group of people that I can call my friends. Being a piano technician can be a lonely job, and this group makes you feel like you have a few thousand friends who are always there to help.”

The immediate follow-up has mostly been, “Wow, people still do that?” or “You can make a living doing that?” However, this gives an opening into deeper conversation and gets the wheels turning. Every contact and discussion s marketing and spreading the good news of the PTG.

Working on this concept has also had an added effect for me. I had to think about what the PTG means to me. Why am I a member? What about this group makes me stay and participate? It forced me to face these questions and actually have a straight answer. Many people ask me what I am getting in return for my member dollars. My answer is in my elevator speech. My biggest takeaway from PTG membership is the camaraderie.

I’m not saying you need a written speech on a laminated note card in your pocket that you can pull out every time you have someone trapped in an elevator. If all 3,000 members would speak about the merits of the PTG or of being an RPT in our daily travels, it’s a quick, simple, cost-efficient way of marketing both the organization and ourselves as members.

My “speech” is different every time I give it. Be flexible, be light in the presentation, be funny, but most importantly, give it a try. As I’ve stated many times over: We are the PTG. We love this organization and what it provides. Let’s tell the world all about it face-to-face in our daily lives.

Feb 22

David Stoneman

Rescued: How It Is That I’m on the Board of Directors

By David Stoneman, RPT
PTG Secretary-Treasurer

After my freshman year in college, which was spent as an economics major, I decided, as something of a grand experiment, to enroll as a music major. The California community college system made this a nearly free indulgence. I considered myself a musician, but on scant evidence, as I didn’t play an instrument. I was a listener, an avid listener of Classical music. Six years later, I had a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Southern California.

Over the next thirty years I had some success as a singer: Early music, new music, concert, opera, and Broadway, I was able to make a reasonable amount of money as an artist, based at different times in southern California, Boston, and Manhattan. But the singing income was never sufficient to provide a solid roof over my head. This led me to seek various other sources of income, mostly through  temporary employment agencies, which provided a chance for this very bad typist to pick up office skills. Eventually I became something of a Microsoft Excel expert, specializing in macro writing.

Numerous stints at different offices ended abruptly in 2008, when the economy came to a halt. As middle management, I was dispensable, and I was laid off. Married, mortgaged, with four kids and no job, I was devastated.

As a singer, I did see to it that my piano was tuned every six months. The day after I was fired was the day of my spring tuning. I explained my situation to my tech, and without skipping a beat, he said, “Come over to the piano with me. You should do this, you should become a piano technician.”

I was flabbergasted. “But aren’t piano techs ‘different’?” He explained that yes, they are different, but in the best ways.

He invited me to a chapter meeting (David Andersen presented), and I was in awe, bewildered, but in awe. There were just over a dozen people, men and women, speaking about pianos, in English, but in a way that left me completely confused. Each of the attendees seemed to be some special mix of Einstein and Gandalf (Marie Curie and Minerva McGonagall?), and they all understood this bizarre code, yet appeared to be learning. I was intrigued and drawn in. I had to know more. I was assured by all there that if I stuck with it, within five years I would have a business concern large enough that I wouldn’t be able to just walk away.

My first convention was a regional one. LaRoy Edwards taught a class, and in moments, I was certain that he knew everything. The next period, the student to my left was… LaRoy Edwards. This was the clincher. If the most knowledgeable among this group was an eager student himself, then that must mean than the learning curve was infinite. I liked that. This was clearly a place for me. I was hooked.

In my fourth year of tuning, I passed my RPT exams. This was an achievement that was important to me, as I needed some way to demonstrate to myself that I was making real progress. By then I had a regular stable of clients, and more importantly, an emotional support group of technicians, people to whom I could turn when I was stumped by a problem. This continues to be one of the most valuable things that the Guild has given me, this network of experts that fortify my confidence as I work.

Starting a new career at age 50, I never believed that I would have the success that piano tuning and repair has offered. What I’m certain of is that working on my own to develop my skills, I could never have achieved the level of proficiency that I’ve reached as a result of the learning experiences that I’ve been exposed to because of being a member of the Guild. I was very truly rescued by the Piano Technicians Guild from a crisis in the midpoint of my life, and for that I’m thankful in ways that I can probably never express.

How could I possibly repay all that I feel I’ve been given? The Guild is a volunteer-run organization, so clearly, by giving of my time. I started as chapter secretary (a great way to get to know all the other members of the chapter as well as those who interact with the chapter). Then, as chapter vice president, president, and delegate to Council, l learned more and more about how the Guild functions and how it requires volunteer hours to run. From there it was a short time before I was asked to participate in several different committees, and this led to me being asked if I would offer my time as a board member.

It’s not always easy work, but it’s worthwhile and interesting, and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a way to give back to this organization to which I feel so grateful. Please consider offering the same.

Jan 22

Jim FarissIt's Our Ship

By Jim Fariss, RPT, PTG Vice President
My, how our perspective changes when we move out of familiar territory or our comfort zone. In September of last year, my young bride and I took a riverboat cruise up the Mississippi, starting in New Orleans, ending in Memphis. Most of the passengers were of a certain age group, let’s just say in the Medicare category. I’m one of those, thank you very much, as is nearly half our membership. 

The number-one activity for many of my fellow travelers was complaining, matched with a large serving of sarcasm. We all met at a hotel for pre-departure, including check-in, showing vaccination cards, and getting Covid tests. The lines were long and personnel few. Rooms to be at and times to be at them were ignored, igniting a chorus of how horrible this was. The riverboat was to have left the next evening, but mechanical issues forced a 24-hour delay. Out came demands for refunds and threats of never going on a river cruise again with this company. 

Not a single person in this world has escaped the tribulations of late. Afghanistan, Covid, a divided nation, neighbor against neighbor arguing over vaccinations, masks — the list grows every day. We took a pre-cruise tour of New Orleans and saw homeless encampments under bridges, as we see now in any major city. We also got a firsthand look at the destruction caused by hurricane Ida: trees ripped from their roots, roofless homes, and buildings covered in blue tarp. Goodness, how can one not be pessimistic with all that going on! 

With the extra day in New Orleans, we also got to tour the World War II museum. That should convince anyone that our trials pale in comparison to the death and destruction that went on for years in those European and Asian battles. The museum had a restaurant made up like a ’40s malt shop, and I asked for an ice cream float. “Sorry, out of vanilla ice cream, can’t get any,” was the response. I kidded about how awful that was, and the clerk replied, saying there was no butter at the grocery store, along with many other staples in New Orleans, “We’re having to make do with what we have.” Perspective.

The limited staff people on board this riverboat were doing their best, making do with what they had, and yet they had smiles on their faces, said hello when we walked by, and if we wanted something, they did what they could. You might say that they were paid to do that, but you can tell when someone is putting on an act or not being sincere, and this was no act. Just the fact that this boat was running at all is a testament to persevering against difficulties.

Your Piano Technicians Guild has been facing such difficulties to keep our own boat afloat in these turbulent waters. Fortunately, we are blessed to have a captain and able-bodied crew to steer our over 60-year-old Guild around debris and avoid strong currents, hidden shoals, and reefs of problems popping up in the way of forward progress. That captain is our Executive Director, Barbara Cassaday, and your Home Office staff and elected board of directors are the crew. Think of it this way: The captain of the riverboat I’m on (Ms.Cassaday) is hired by a company that owns the riverboat (the members of PTG), and the elected officers of the company (our PTG board of directors) tell the captain where to sail. From that point on, it’s up to the captain to chart a course and get us safely to our destination, utilizing whatever resources are available. Captain Cassaday has the exact same problems that this riverboat, a restaurant, or any business today faces: lack of staff and supply problems. 

And, just like the limited crew on this riverboat doing their best and sincerely smiling, our Home Office staff and a myriad of volunteer members are jumping in, supporting each other with the tasks at hand. 

While it’s all too easy to become discouraged with the barrage of negative news and divisive issues, there is hope and encouragement within the Piano Technicians Guild. That hope starts with your board of directors, who were just ten piano technicians in August and in only a few short weeks have come together as a strong working force, collaborating efforts, expanding horizons, daring to dream big to provide for the needs of the 21st-century piano technician. 

That bright and encouraging future for our Guild is being played out on your regional community forum, where your elected regional vice president has been communicating Requests For Action (RFAs) from the board that will be coming up for discussion at future board meetings. For your board to effectively give sailing directions to our captain and move our ship in the direction we want, it is imperative to hear from you and your thoughts on RFAs. It is indeed our ship. I would be remiss if I did not mention that the title for this article came from one of the best books on leadership, It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff.

Dec 21

How Do You Become an Examiner?

By Marc Poulin, RPT, PTG President and Dave Davis, RPT, Examinations and Test Standards Committee Chair

This is such a common question, and there is no simple answer. We are hoping to shed a little light on the subject to clear the air and provide direction for those who may be pondering this question.

If you just wish to help with RPT exams, you do not need to be certified as a technical examiner (TEC) or a tuning examiner (CTE). All RPTs are welcome to assist with all three exams. All you need are a willingness to volunteer, the ability to follow policies and directions of the examiner in charge, and the desire have fun! Assisting with exams can be an education program all on its own. At a convention several years ago, the RPT “assistants” for the master tuning were Jim Coleman, Sr. and Michael Travis. As a first-year, full- time CTE, working with technicians of this caliber for four hours on a master tuning was a training opportunity that you couldn’t ever pay for.

Examiners come in three types: Written, Technical, and Tuning. Each of the disciplines has differing requirements to qualify for training as well as different training programs to complete your certification. The one thing all three have in common is simple: You must be a Registered Piano Technician to administer the RPT exams and become certified as an examiner.

Download the complete article on becoming an examiner.

Nov 21

David Stoneman

The First Four Words

By David Stoneman, RPT
PTG Secretary-Treasurer

The first four words of the Piano Technicians Guild’s Code of Ethics are: “I will act honorably.” In an ethics code, what more really needs to be said?

After this are found follow-up points that help to illuminate specifically what these first four words mean for someone in our industry. The additional wording also acts to make certain that we can find consensus, codify our understanding of honor and how it will manifest itself in our day-to-day actions as professionals who interact with the public. Simple, no?

Ah, now the hard part. These first four words present an ancient philosophical challenge that has at its core a paradox of Gordian Knot-like proportion. How do I know what is the honorable thing to do? As an individual, who’s to say that my understanding of honor is the same as any other’s? We do trust that we all have that “same small voice” that gives us direction in what is right and what is wrong, our very own Jiminy Cricket that can sound an alarm when we begin to head in a direction that is contrary to our better selves, moving us away from the wrong and toward the right.

I feel that I know what is right, and though I am not a philosopher or high thinker, I strive to do right by my clients and my fellow technicians. I strive to avoid selfish gestures with family, friends, clients, and suppliers. It becomes more difficult as the relationships extend further from the “me” that is in the center of my world. Of course I want to treat “me” well. Of course I want to treat “mine” well. But how about suppliers, people with whom I may have nothing more than a single business dealing? Do I try to arrange fair deals, good deals, advantageous deals, exceptional deals? At what point am I trying to take advantage of someone? Conscience and honor must guide me to act in the proper fashion.

“I will act honorably” has implications regarding how we look at all others in our profession. It is a guiding precept of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) that none of their members is ever to disparage the work of any other appraiser, whether that person is a member of the ASA or not. The thought behind this is that any language that speaks against an appraiser works to the detriment of the entire profession. Isn’t this an ideal that makes sense? But that curbs free speech and forces me to swallow my tongue when I have a right to speak my mind about what I see to be a lack of quality in the work of other “technicians.” Well, yes, and no. Acting honorably would direct us to find a way to convey our opinions in a fashion that educates, looks to truth, and works toward betterment. To do this requires a certain professional attitude which is reliant on a certain level of emotional maturity. I don’t always find this easy, and in those instances when I find myself struggling to find the next right thing to say, I find it is sometimes best to take a moment. Yes, it can sometimes be a long, very long, or very, very long moment. But I’d better take time rather than say something quick, unfortunately unprofessional, and therefore less than honorable.

One of the fascinating things about piano technology is the fact that the learning curve is infinite; there is always more to learn. As this is true, then it follows that, regardless of our feeling that “I know more about ‘______’ than anyone,” we have more to learn and therefore should be open to the idea that we can learn from our colleagues — our RPT colleagues, our member colleagues, and our colleagues who are not in the Guild. If we can learn from any of those around us, why wouldn’t we treat them with professional respect as our default attitude?

I’m always pained to hear of a situation where someone has come to a first PTG chapter meeting and reported a feeling of being frozen out, unwelcome, or underappreciated as a potential new member. Worse, perhaps much worse, is the way some contrary opinions are handled on the PTG email lists, where we are supposed to discuss ideas for the betterment of the profession. Language is occasionally chosen that derides fellow technicians so viciously that I can’t recommend new members subscribe. I fear they will find the way we treat each other so discouraging that they’ll turn tail and run.

It certainly isn’t possible to be perfect. It isn’t always possible to be sure of the right next step, but we should always be able to know what it is to act honorably and then do so.

PTG Mission Statement
The mission of the Piano Technicians Guild is to promote the highest possible standards of piano service by providing members with opportunities for professional development, by recognizing technical competence through examinations and by advancing the interests of its members.

Oct 21

Jim Fariss

Focus and Direction

By Jim Fariss, RPT
PTG Vice President

I sincerely appreciate the honor and opportunity entrusted to me by the delegates representing more than 3,000 members of the Piano Technicians Guild at the 2021 Council meeting in Orlando. At that meeting I was elected to our PTG executive committee, along with Marc Poulin and David Stoneman. That was followed by our seven regions selecting their regional vice presidents to complete your 2021-22 board of directors.

That, for the most part, should be the last time you’ll see me use the personal pronoun “I” or refer to the executive committee. From the moment this group was elected, ten of your fellow piano technicians came together with unique and in some cases wildly diverse ideas on what the future of PTG should or should not be, and they became one board of directors.

The day after Council, your new board met to discover where we had commonality and, equally as important, what our differences were. We started off with some fundamental questions, such as, “Is the PTG a school?”, “Our shrinking examiner pool,” and “The importance of Council in a board-governance world.” We then began to list issues facing PTG, each board member weighing in with concerns. The list grew and grew. From there, we ranked an order of priorities this board needs to tackle. In the end, these ten piano technicians came together as a team to create the top five priorities your volunteer board will focus on over the next six months as we head towards reviewing our progress at the winter board meeting next January.

The following five priorities are the solid foundation your board will build upon. This list contains our issues, not the answers or solutions. In the two and a half days your board met in Orlando, we unfortunately were not able to solve the world’s problems just yet, but certainly we’re working on it!

RPT Examiners & Exams
The pool of tuning and technical examiners has reached a critically low level, to where we’ll soon be giving RPT exams only at annual conventions if things don’t change. Your board has put together a task group with this direction: If PTG were creating a tuning exam today, with or without regard to the past, what would that exam be? Particular focus should be paid towards the requirements for the examiner and skills/process necessary to administer the exam. Of the utmost importance was included: There is NO reference to removing an aural requirement for an ETD user.

Council Role & Board Relations
The makeup of our Council and board comes from the same place, volunteer members of PTG. The transition from Council governance to board governance continues to elude us, and it is your board that must work to break this us-vs-them mentality that serves no purpose but to divide and destroy.

Assessment of Member Benefits
We banter about the phrase “Member Benefits,” but what does that really mean? What information can we arm our members with so they are prepared to answer the question, “Why should I join the PTG?” While we worked on that, a few thoughts came up, such as:

  • Access to a living knowledge base
  • Support for remote members
  • Local chapter meetings
  • The Piano Technicians Journal
  • Conventions

Recruitment – Grow Membership
So often we hear, “Somebody should do something about . . .” Your board is that somebody. No matter how you slice it, when any organization fails to attract young, fresh talent, it’s destined to collapse. Our PTG must embrace 21st-century training, communication, and technologies to provide that attraction.

Education Goals – “Where do I go for training?”
Some of that 21st-century communication is already here today in the PTG. Do yourself a favor and click on “Become a Tech” on the home page of the PTG website. There you will see an introduction video created by our marketing committee, headed by Tim Barnes and Chris LaBarre. Our Executive Director, Barbara Cassaday, informs us there has been a notable increase in the number of inquiries since that page and videos were created. The problem is that when asked, “Where can I get training?” our Home Office does not have a stock answer. We’re going to change that.

Your board does not have the answers today, but you can see where we’ll focus our limited time and resources to come up with answers or develop a direction to get them. When your board gathers at its winter meeting, there should be an expectation of an answer to the question: “What has the board accomplished since last August?”

Questions, comments, concerns? Contact your regional vice president via your community forum. That person is your direct connection with the board, and there’s no doubt that others share those same questions.

Sep 21

Marc Poulin

Be That Person to Someone
Marc Poulin, RPT

PTG President

My entry into the world of the piano began in 1979. I was four years old and was fascinated by the piano that had arrived at our house. I still remember the day, shortly before Christmas, when the movers struggled to bring the brand-new Wurlitzer studio upright into our living room. Even more memorable was the day the technician, Dale Howe, arrived to tune and service it for the first time.

After begging and pleading with my parents for the next two years, my mother arranged for me to begin piano lessons at age six. Little did I know, my teacher, Richard Shadroui, was a World War II veteran and graduate of Julliard, modestly stating that immediately after the war, they would let anybody in. Richard would become a second father to me over the course of 15 years of lessons. He was encouraging and patient with a small child’s ignorance and lack of practice. He was also always willing to talk about almost anything as we worked our way through a lesson. He offered advice, sometimes indirectly, sometimes more directly. He stoked my love of the piano in multiple ways by simply being himself. He just quietly set the example. He passed away at age 97 a few weeks ago.

Fast forward to spring 1995, when I toured the North Bennet Street School. The first staff member I met was Jack Stebbins. Jack immediately introduced himself with his traditional big smile and handshake, followed by a bad joke. Again, little did I know over the next two years working with Jack at school, and then in the next 25 years working with him as an examiner, I would take away the temperament I still use today, now commonly known as “Jack’s Stack.” (If you don’t use it, try it. It’s great!) I would also learn how to be compassionate to those stressing out over exams, and eventually I had an observer in a piano prep for a master tuning tell me, “You tune just like Jack.” That was about the highest compliment I could ever receive! Jack is one of the most kind, talented, and skilled teachers I have ever met, and he accomplished this simply by being himself. Jack is usually anything but quiet, but he quietly challenged me and all his students, just by setting the bar high with his example.

Shortly before I graduated from the first-year program, I was looking for work. My uncle mentioned he had been talking to an old college classmate from the University of Vermont who happened to be a piano technician and was looking for help. That technician was Dale Howe, whom I had first met as a small child. I accepted that job for the summer after my first year at NBSS and took a full-time job after completion of year two. Dale was an old-school small-town Vermonter who had such a way with people. Seeing him interact with customers on the sales floor or in their homes, and on the stage prepping for a performance, he taught me more about human interaction than any class I’ve been through in law enforcement. Being honest and open to the point of bluntness served him well, and I have continued in much the same vein from his example. Every now and then, when I’d be on the shop floor tuning or regulating, Dale would wander over, ask a question or two, and wander off again, leaving me to ponder his suggestions. I quickly became a better technician under his quiet guidance and commentary. He didn’t demand anything be done “his” way, but he made a large impact with just a few words or a moment of demonstrating. That was just how he did things.

Now that I’m finished telling war stories with tears in my eyes, I come to the point of this essay: Be that person to someone. Be kind, helpful, and supportive to those who are under your care, come to you for help, or that you run across in your daily life. All three of my mentors were just being themselves. They didn’t have to go out of their way, but they made remarkable impressions on me just by being who they were and are. Be that person. You never know what impact you can and will make.

Marc Poulin, RPT
PTG President

Aug 21

Marc Poulin

Whose Job Is It Anyway?
Marc Poulin, RPT

PTG President

Greetings to you all!

Shortly after I joined the Piano Technicians Guild in 1996, I met PTG President Marshall Hawkins at a regional seminar held outside of Boston. He took the time to chat with me about where I was heading after my training, why I got into piano technology, and a bit about his history within the Guild. Little did I know then that I would be following him as PTG president 25 years later. Thank you all for your confidence and support in my PTG involvement and piano technology career. I will try my best to leave the presidency and PTG in better shape when I leave office than when I took office.

A little about me, for those of you whom I have not met, spoken with, or given exams to over the years: I am from Barre, Vermont, where I live with my wife, Melanie, who is also a piano technician. I studied mechanical engineering in college before attending and graduating from North Bennet Street School. I served in the Army for seven years in the artillery branch before being medically discharged. I worked for a local piano dealer for a few years before venturing out on my own, eventually entering a career in law enforcement. I recently changed employers and am currently an officer for the Vermont Capitol Police in Montpelier. I am an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, District Award of Merit and Silver Beaver award winner, all from the Boy Scouts of America, where I continue to serve in multiple roles.

I joined PTG in 1996, became an RPT and Certified Tuning Examiner in 1997, served on the Examination and Test Standards Committee as a member and tuning sub-chair until 2007. That same year I joined the institute team, serving until I was institute director in 2011. I returned to the ETSC as chair after becoming a technical examiner that same year. I became the Northeast Regional Vice President in 2015 and have served on the board ever since. With any luck, at the end of my term as president, I will return to the exam rooms, which is my first love.


Speaking of exam rooms, and ALL the other myriad jobs that make PTG run…

We are a volunteer organization.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a volunteer?


  • noun: a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task without being paid.
  • verb: freely offer to do something. 

It sounds simple enough, right? It takes a TON of volunteer work to make PTG operate. Years ago, getting people to volunteer seemed to be easier. There were more members to ask, and society seemed more willing to step up and get things done. PTG and society have both changed. Since we changed to board governance in 2017, we hear an awful lot of The board needs to do this, that, and the other thing. The board is comprised of ten people. PTG is comprised of almost 3,000. Who is better able to get things discussed, created, and accomplished? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have thousands working vs. ten. All of us are capable and necessary to get the business of PTG completed. A volunteer “freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.” We have many people who freely offer to take part in an enterprise but seem to fail on the “undertake a task” part. Our committees lie

dormant with a few exceptions. Our tuning examiner pool is at a critical low level. Every year there are pages and pages of discussion on my.ptg regarding changes to PTG policy and bylaws. What comes out of these discussions? Not so much. We need more people stepping up to the plate, getting things done vs. endless talk and argument. We all are PTG and are all needed to help. Let me end here with a brief story, titled “Whose Job Is It, Anyway?”

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

Marc Poulin, RPT

PTG President

July 21


Happy Trails
Paul Adams, RPT

PTG President

The last two years have been quite a ride, to say the least. Despite the challenges, I was honored to be your president and tried to properly fulfill my duties to the best of my ability. I laid out my goals in my election speech. As is often the case, some were realized and others got placed on a back burner. Unexpected turns occur and some goals take longer than two years to accomplish. In some small way, the broadside of the Covid-19 pandemic made me feel what it must be like to be a wartime president.
   I would be remiss if I did not credit the help and guidance provided by Vice-President Marc Poulin, Secretary-Treasurer Jim Fariss, and all seven RVPs. The entire Home Office staff under the direction of our Executive Director, Barbara Cassaday, did a remarkable job despite their reduction in personnel. I wish to thank all the past presidents that I reached out to for their guidance. In particular, I am indebted to our esteemed bylaws chair, Allan Gilreath, for his continued dedication to the betterment of PTG.
   Many members have asked how I find the time to do this job and keep my business going. My answer has two parts: (1) If you want to get something done, ask a busy person, and (2) I felt compelled to give back to PTG because of all I have received from PTG over the years. When you are committed to serve, you find the time to do so. It also doesn’t hurt to have a very supportive wife. I would encourage all of you to get more involved and volunteer for service at the chapter level or for one of our committee positions. You will get back more than you give from the experience. Please join this dedicated group of volunteers. We need you!
   I was invited to travel to China by Basilios Strmec of Hailun USA, and this visit strengthened our relationship with the Hailun company. It helped solidify the production of an exam-quality three-note upright action model for our exam testing process. We have a contract for the production of this action model, which will be fulfilled as soon as travel restrictions are lifted for the final inspection procedures before delivery. Also, I represented PTG at the International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians, (I.A.P.B.T.) conference held in Japan in May of 2019.
   The speed of communication between the board and the membership regarding requests for action, (RFAs) has increased exponentially since I joined the board over ten years ago. It has gone from once a year to twice a year, then 60 days in the Board Update column in the Journal. Most recently, they are posted in the regional forums as soon as they arrive. Please remember that they can be submitted at any time.
   Our long-range plan is bearing fruit in many areas, but most especially regarding educational opportunities. We will continue to grow the PTG Academy Online. We will soon have an index for most of the Journals to facilitate locating information. In the Education Hub, an index has already been created to search all of the TT&T articles. There is a new form for posting your online chapter technicals to our newly minted events calendar. One of my unrealized goals was to establish a system of continuing education units (CEUs). This project began with past-president Norman Cantrell. The good news is, it is part of our long-range plan. Stay tuned!
   I cannot express my firm belief strongly enough that we must retain an in-person Council at all costs, as well as an aural component to our RPT exams. As I said in my election speech, “I never thought I would see the day when it would be considered controversial to expect an RPT to be able to demonstrate the ability to hear.” Let’s maintain my catch phrase, “Progress with Respect for Tradition.”
   My presidency can best be described in an often-repeated favorite quote of mine. Its origin dates to a writer in the 1957 Reader’s Digest named Allen Saunders and is often attributed to John Lennon: “Life is what actually happens while you are making other plans.”
   Finally, I wish to thank the membership for giving me the opportunity and privilege to serve as your president. I sincerely hope to see as many of you as possible this summer at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Orlando at Sea World!
   If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Paul Adams, RPT

June 21


Convention Highlights
Paul Adams, RPT

PTG President

To entice you to participate in our 2021 PTG Convention and Technical Institute on August 4-7 in Orlando, Florida, I present the following list of classes. Commentary is provided by your Institute Director, Ingrid Kraft, RPT.

From Rocks to Cream Puffs: Voicing Difficult Hammers, with Don Mannino, RPT. Take the fear out of voicing as you learn how to deal with difficult hammers. I got to view this class at a regional convention about 15 years ago. It’s so good.

Street Pianos – Not Just a Pretty Case, with Gina Bonfietti and Amy Tiernan, RPT. Learn everything about community pianos, from proper prep, finding a location, dealing with your municipality, and promoting your piano. A fascinating class, because we all see these pianos every summer.

Grand Action Rebuilding – Making the Right Choices, with Rick Baldassin, RPT, Renner USA, and Carl Teel. Learn to make correct choices with measurements and action geometry, then test your choices before committing wholesale. Finally, learn efficient key weigh-off. Fabulous class.

Dampers from the Ground Up, with Steve Brady, RPT. Learn everything from installing felts, regulating damper and sostenuto pedals, along with troubleshooting damper problems. I think we can’t get enough classes on learning how to refine our damper skills.

Relentless Repetition, Relentless Repetition, with Mike Reiter, RPT. This class will focus on rapidly repeating notes on grand actions. Mike will demonstrate the ins and outs of some of the finer points of grand regulation.

Rebuilders Grab Bag, Action Edition, with David Hughes, RPT. This class will discuss the merits of installing new keys, new capstans and backchecks, keyboard weigh-off, action stack build-up, hammer weight management, damper system installation, trapwork goodies, and more. As David says, “This class is where the action is.”

You Don't Know Jack, with Nathan Mills, RPT. This class will demystify the concept of double escapement and will also present a simple method for getting simultaneous escapement consistently. What a great title for a class.

Harpsichord Basics for Piano Technicians, with Jason Cassel, RPT. Many of us have opportunities to service this instrument. This class goes over harpsichord repair. I have taken it. I was glad CAUT offered it this year.

Grand ActionWeigh-off Simplified, with Bruce Stevens, RPT and David Vanderlip, RPT. Gain confidence with this class through an innovative quick-and-easy method using balance weight protocols. The second period will cover considerations of geometry, action ratio, inertia, pattern key leading, parts selection and hammer preparation. Bruce and David do an excellent job with this class.

Just in case you cannot be there in person, for the first time you can register for a Live Stream Pass on our website, my.ptg.org/2021convention/registration. That pass will allow you to view 12 select Institute classes online. Several of the above are included in this grouping.

I sincerely hope to see as many of you as possible this summer at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Orlando at Sea World!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Paul Adams, RPT

May 21



Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

We all have certain obligations in life. The same is true for PTG. We have an obligation to continue to provide a long list of benefits to the membership and to expand that list whenever possible. We enter into contracts with major hotels in order to provide the facilities to hold our annual conventions. Our current contract with the DoubleTree Hotel in Orlando was negotiated and signed well before Covid-19. The only thing that was changed in that contract was the date of the event when we rescheduled to 2021, due to the pandemic. We have an obligation to fulfill that contract this year. The hotel is taking the position that by August, they will be able to fulfill their obligations and expect us to do the same.

FYI, all hotel contracts for large events have a cancellation schedule. The closer you get to the date of the event, the more you are obligated to pay if you cancel. This makes sense, because the later you cancel, the more difficult it is for the hotel to resell the facility. Our last cancellation date in this schedule with the DoubleTree was March 16th of 2019, at which time we would be obligated to pay nearly $250,000.00 and receive nothing if we did cancel.

We reserved a room block of 1,774 sleeping room nights that would provide the hotel with an anticipated revenue of $220,718.00. Furthermore, we agreed to spend $50,000.00 on food and beverage, which provides us with complementary meeting space. This represents a typical arrangement when contracting a hotel for our conventions in a pre-Covid-19 world. Given the demographics of our membership and the rapid rollout of multiple vaccines, your board of directors feels confident that we will be able to meet, while following CDC guidelines regarding masks, etc. The hotel assures us that they will provide extraordinary sanitation during the event.

As I have written in previous president’s messages, we have prepared several contingency plans and recently decided to hold our very first hybrid convention. There will be an in-person convention in Orlando from August 4 through August 7 this summer. In addition to this, one of the classrooms will be set up as a television studio and will broadcast a total of 12 classes over the Internet for a fee. 

I am making an appeal to you all, that you come to Orlando this August and please stay at the DoubleTree Hotel to help us fulfill our obligation to purchase as many room nights as possible. Yes, it is in Florida, in the summer, but as our former president and Floridian Phil Bondi often said, “We do air conditioning well here!” 

To see many of you in Florida this summer, I would be much obliged!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Paul Adams, RPT

April 21


One More Thing

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

Over the years, the Piano Technicians Guild has come to mean many things to our membership.

1.  Our mission statement states: Our mission is to promote the industry’s highest possible standards by
  • Providing members with every opportunity for professional development
  • Recognizing and promoting technical competence through examinations
  • Advancing the interests of each of our members
2.  Strategic Initiative 1 from our long-range plan (LRP) states: Professional Development: Develop and implement well-curated, relevant, high quality education and certification programs that advance the skills of our members, and ultimately the quality of service for the world’s pianos.

3.  One more thing: In a subheading from the LRP, Tactic 1.1.3, Develop Phased Curriculum, Action, CEUs: Study the possibility of adding “Continuing Education Credits” (CEUs) for all programs. As I said in a previous president’s message, “RPT is a benchmark, not a destination.” In the near future, I would like to see PTG follow the model used by many professional organizations in requiring our members to amass a certain number of CEUs every two years. The net result of instituting this change would increase attendance at all levels for chapter meetings, one-day seminars, regional conventions and our annual convention. This would raise the bar and bring us into alignment with both our mission statement and what we’ve already agreed to do within our code of ethics. See number four below.

4.  Item #7 on the back of your membership card states: I will strive to upgrade my professional skills and I will encourage and help others to do the same.

5.  Our Institute incorporates a three-tiered system. There are classes for everyone (E), intermediate level (I) and advanced (A). PTG has always been about education.

6.  One more thing: Our certification process has evolved over time. It is consistent and fair. We now have the capability to provide our written exam online.

7.  One more thing: PTG has always been a social experience. The pandemic has brought many things into focus for me that I truly miss:
  • Seeing old friends, making new ones, shaking hands, and exchanging hugs
  • Seeking answers in the hallways
  • Taking home the new tip that made it worth the trip
  • Showing camaraderie during the call and response to our “List of States” at our opening ceremony
  • Hearing our barbershop chorus, just to name a few

I would proffer one more thing: The diversity of PTG is who we are, and this represents our greatest strength. By no means does that define us as a rudderless ship.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Paul Adams, RPT

March 21


It May Be Unconventional

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

We are all doing our level best to ensure that another year does not go by without a PTG annual convention. While composing this message in January for the March issue of the Journal, it is too early to know exactly how we are going to proceed. Much is still up in the air due to the pandemic. I do know one thing: 2021 will include a major educational event for our members in one form or another.
An in-person event in Orlando, Florida at the beginning of August would be the preferred way to go. Having said that, several months ago your executive committee began discussing the need for a plan B or C in the form of a virtual event. I advised our Institute Director to begin preparations for such an eventuality. Many of us have become increasingly familiar with virtual gatherings among family and friends. Producing a virtual convention is significantly more complicated.
In recent years several companies have cropped up to provide help in running a virtual event. In early January your institute team, along with Home Office staff and some members of the board, began auditioning some of these platforms. They varied in capabilities, training, and cost. Virtual conference platforms can simulate most but not all of what our annual convention normally provides. This would be our plan B.
Plan C would be a hybrid event. It would contain a combination of an in-person event along with live-streaming of at least one of the classrooms.
The state of the pandemic and the rollout of vaccines will shape our course of action. I hope to see all of you at our next annual convention. One thing is certain: In these uncharted waters, it will be unconventional.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Feb 21


A Virtual Reality, Virtual Classes, Actual Reality

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

While our website doesn’t deal in virtual reality, it does provide many virtual classes that provide a true learning experience equivalent to the actual reality of an in-person event. It is important to note that a portion of our website is dedicated to online learning. It can be found on the homepage of our social media platform at the following URL: my.ptg.org/home. Make sure that you log in first as a member, then look on the right side of the page for the “Member’s Corner.” The third item in the list is entitled “PTG Academy Online.” The PTG Academy folder currently contains 19 individual class topics. They run the gamut from tuning to repairs, regulation, voicing, and business management, to name a few. However, 19 is a deceptively small number because many of the classes offered are divided into multiple segments.

For example, “Your Money Or Your Life” has seven segments. “Business 101” has 12. “Piano Technician’s Playground” has 14, and “Quick Tips – 6 Pack of Technicals” has 25. Altogether, the 19 offerings include 73 segments. If you invested your time to review and study all of these, it would be equivalent to attending more than two annual conventions. You should know that we plan on investing more of your member dollars to increase the number of these virtual classes.

Here is the really good news! All of the information contained in the PTG Academy Online is included in your annual dues at no additional charge. It is a member benefit!

Furthermore, we are planning to include some virtual classes at our next annual convention. This will be our very first hybrid event.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Jan 21


A New Year, a New Hope, a New Plan, and a New Calendar

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

I don’t know about you, but if I had the option, I’d like to mark the year 2020 “Return to sender.” As we begin 2021, there is a new hope that with the advent of vaccines and therapeutics on the horizon, the COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end. However, it would be prudent to plan ahead as we wait.
   While we continue to organize an in-person annual convention in Orlando this year, there is a contingency plan in place, if required. Plan A was our 2020 convention, plan B is our 2021 convention, and the new plan C is a “Virtual Institute.” Many organizations have already gone this route. Let’s hope we don’t have to. However, this important member benefit cannot disappear for a second year in a row. We are contacting all of our instructors to assist in making this possible. We will provide guidance and resources as needed in this regard.
   Many chapters have adopted the use of online technology to hold their meetings virtually. This includes chapter technical presentations. An important member benefit would be to have a place to go to find out where, when, and on what topics these meetings are occurring. To that end, there is a new feature/repository on our home page that will answer those questions. From ptg.org, click on the heading “PTG Members” and then on “Events.” On the left side you will see the usual list of upcoming
in-person events. On the right side, there is a red button entitled “Online Education Calendar.” This takes you to our new calendar for PTG-member classes, seminars, and meetings. Although currently sparsely populated, as awareness of this feature increases, many events will be listed. To add an event to the calendar, simply click on the red button entitled “Submit your own event.” This brings you to a form that will provide the Home Office with all the details needed to post your event to this new calendar.
   In order to ensure a level of quality worth sharing with the membership, the event sponsor must be a chapter president or RVP. Events must be free to all PTG members to be added to this calendar. Please check with your presenters to make sure that they are open to inviting all PTG members to your event. And finally, please be sure to include information on how to access or attend your event, as all fields on the form are required fields.
   PTG currently owns four Zoom accounts. Therefore, we can facilitate up to four meetings per day. Please contact the Home Office to set one up for your event. Chapters can purchase their own Zoom account for a current annual fee of $149.90. Chapter members could easily share this expense, given savings on gas not used to attend in-person meetings. This works out to a chapter expense of just $12.50 a month and permits up to 100 participants for meetings of any length, plus one gigabyte of cloud recording storage.
   The mention of Zoom above does not constitute an endorsement — it just happens to be the platform we are using. There are many online meeting software offerings currently available. Here is a short list: Google Meet, GoToMeeting, Skype for Business, Vonage Meeting, Polycom, Blue Jean, Global Meet, Cisco WebEx, and many more. Check them out and compare costs and services.
   The pandemic has had all of us in a valley for most of 2020. Let’s remember that when you’re in a valley, there is only one way to go, and that’s up. Here’s wishing all of us a happier and healthier new year! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Dec 20

Paul Adams
PTG in a Covid-19 Year

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

As we enter this year’s holiday season, I am quite certain that many of us share the following thought: “I wish I could give 2020 back.” Shortly after last winter’s board meeting, the pandemic hit and all our lives changed. I sincerely hope that very few if any of our members had their health severely impacted by Covid-19. I do know that many of you have been struggling financially because of the pandemic. In recognition of this fact, your directors, in conjunction with the incremental dues task group I appointed, have instituted a new organizational policy. We hope this will prove to be helpful for those who need it.

Members may now choose to pay annual PTG dues in full or in installments, utilizing the PTG Automatic Debit Plan. Furthermore, at our three-day summer board meeting on Zoom, we eliminated an increase in dues for 2021. Members who elect to make their payments in installments will be required to set up automatic payments through PTG’s website (ptg.org). You will log in and select “Pay Online & Dues Renewal.” An administrative fee of $5.00 per month will be added to the installment payments. There are no pre-payment penalties if you choose to pay off the balance at any point throughout the year. And, of course, you have always had the option to use a credit card and pay it off however you choose.

Payments or automatic payment arrangements must be made on or before December 31. Dues have always been due at the end of the calendar year. If payment or payment arrangements have not been made by December 31, your dues will be considered delinquent on January 1 of the new year. Because of the availability of the new payment plan for all members, the grace period for non-payment has been reduced to 30 days. Regrettably, you will be dropped from the membership rolls on February 1 for non-payment. Please note that your board of directors has given the Home Office some flexibility in this regard when circumstances are beyond the control of the member.

Chapters have two options: (a) collecting chapter dues directly from members, or (b) agreeing to have PTG collect chapter dues with the understanding that distribution to the chapter will only take place twice a year (August distribution for January-June and February distribution for July-December). Please note, option (b) is not available for new members in their first year of membership.

Please share the above information with your fellow chapter members. Questions may be addressed to either Sandy Roady (sandy@ptg.org) or Jason Hensley (jason@ptg.org) at the Home Office.

Here’s wishing all of us a Happy and Healthy New Year!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!
Be Safe and Be Well!

Nov 20


Challenging Our Exams as a Learning Tool

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

Okay, let’s be honest. Our Registered Piano Technician (RPT) exams are challenging. They are meant to be so in order to verify a significant set of baseline skills that will assure your clients will receive proper service. In addition, they provide an equally important benefit to you along your path to becoming an RPT. They are the best learning tool you could possibly have to help assess your skill levels in many aspects of piano technology. The most important thing you will learn is getting to know what you don’t know or what you need to practice in order to produce results in a timely, proficient, and professional manner.

I am well aware of the significant trepidation associated with taking our exams. I have heard such comments many times over the years that I’ve been a member of PTG. I cannot stress this enough: There should be no shame in not acing the tests on your first try. You should take comfort in the fact that many of our members had to challenge one or more sections of our tests on multiple occasions. You should also know the joy and the sense of accomplishment they felt when they finally achieved their RPT status. Not a single one would tell you it was not worth the effort.

Membership in PTG provides numerous forms of assistance along your route to certification as an RPT. Your fellow chapter members or your regional vice president (RVP) should be willing to provide guidance and answer your questions. Some of them might already be participating in our new mentorship program. Chapter technical presentations, all-day seminars, regional conventions, Exam Prep on The Road seminars, and of course our annual institute will all help fill the gaps in your knowledge base. I would also recommend that you purchase our two exam source books from the PTG online store. 

The Education Hub on our website contains a wealth of information. There’s a link in the bulleted list on the Hub entitled “Path to RPT Certification.” Scrolling down, you will find an extensive document called the “RPT Exam Pre-Screening Manual” that will provide help with passing our written, tuning, and technical exams. Any RPT should be able to administer a pre-screening. You can test yourself with a mock tuning exam, available online in the February 2014 issue of the Journal. There is a discussion group on my.ptg.org for members interested in preparing for the RPT exams.

Please consider challenging our exams as soon as possible. I guarantee you will be glad you did.

Challenging Our Exams is a Learning Tool!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!

Be Safe and Be Well!


Oct 20


Passing the Torch

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

When I first joined PTG many years ago, my wife accompanied me to one of my first regional conventions, known at the time as the PA State Conference. As an insurance agent, she was dealing with small business insurance. She was astonished at the camaraderie and willingness to share knowledge that she witnessed at her first PTG event. In her own industry, lack of cordiality, holding secrets close to the vest, and a strong competitive nature were more prevalent.

We all should be grateful and happy to share in our association, once described by a former president as an “Odd Duck.” The free and open exchange of knowledge is the hallmark of PTG. It is the raison d’être that most of us remain members for decades.

Most of this sharing of knowledge occurs in classrooms, at chapter technical presentations, all-day seminars and in the hallways at various events. However, there is a much-underutilized approach known as mentoring. This should not necessarily be viewed as a soup-to-nuts curriculum, because it can easily be broken up into much smaller segments. 

In the previous President’s Message, I referred to the PTG Guide to Piano Technology. It now resides under a shorter name, the “PTG Education Hub.” It can be found in two ways from the homepage at ptg.org. A direct link can be accessed in the large scrolling banner, or click on the heading “Technicians” and choose “Educational Resources,” then “Education Hub.” The last bullet point in the upper right corner lists the Mentorship Program.

For access from a portable device, scan the QR codes on the left for the Education Hub and the Mentorship Program page.

This brings you to an overview of our newly minted Mentorship Program, brought to you by your hard-working education committee. Scrolling down to the bottom, there are two red buttons providing additional information for mentors and for mentees. The mentors button provides mentorship guidelines and allows you to sign up to become a mentor. The mentee button provides a list of members who have already signed up to be mentors. In addition to the above, a new community forum called “Mentorship Connect” has been established on my.ptg.org to engage with others interested in mentoring relationships and sharing resources.

Finally, your marketing task group is preparing to roll out five new webinars. They will include the following topics:

1. Becoming a Piano Technician ~15 minutes

2. Educational Opportunities for New Piano Technicians ~10 minutes

3. Building Your First Tool Kit ~15 minutes

4. Finding a Mentor ~10 minutes (Dovetailing with the education committee)

5. Building a Mentorship Program ~60-90 minutes (Dovetailing with the education committee)

Let us never lose sight of this most important tradition and always remember to: 

Pass the Torch!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!

Be Safe and Be Well!


Sep 20


Membership is Stewardship

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

A long time ago, in a Piano Technicians Journal far, far away in the back of your collection of Journals, another author penned the phrase I used for the title of this article. What was true back then is just as true today.

Stewardship is defined as the responsibility to manage or to take care of another’s property. Farmers pride themselves on being stewards of the countryside. Similarly, I would encourage all of our members to make it their mission to help preserve and contribute to PTG itself and to the collective wisdom and many decades of knowledge stored in our archives.

You may ask yourself, “As a new member, what can I possibly contribute that would be of any value to the collective?” Many of our members are entering piano technology as a second career. Others have been tuning and caring for pianos for years before they decided to join. Within our ranks there are talented individuals with various skill sets that are worth sharing. Certainly, our younger members may have significant knowledge and experience with social media, website design, or other computer skills. Some of you may have advanced woodworking skills, marketing expertise, or business acumen.

As I have stated before, we have all benefited from the countless volunteer hours of others. Joining PTG and paying your dues on time is a great first step. However, for us to evolve and thrive into the future, we need your participation. It’s a great opportunity as well as a great responsibility.

PTG has much to offer you on your path to increased understanding of piano technology. Please reach out to your chapter president or to your regional vice president for some ideas on how you can help support our mission.

Let’s maintain the tradition together by always keeping in mind that:

Membership is Stewardship!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!

Be Safe and Be Well!


Aug 20


Did I Mention Retention?

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

There is only one thing more important than obtaining new PTG members, and that is retaining them. Our Home Office does send out a welcome package of documents to all new members, and this is a good first step. However, it needs to be followed up by the local chapter to which they are assigned. Too often I’ve heard stories about new members who received minimal or no contact or guidance from their chapter, not even a phone call or an email advising them of where and when the next chapter meeting will be.

Years ago, I read a story entitled “The Member Who Didn’t Come Back.” It involved a new member of an organization who showed up at a handful of meetings. The regular long-standing members hardly ever interacted with the newbie. They kept to themselves in their own clique. The new member was not invited to participate in any projects and was not asked to join any committees or to make a run for an office. After a short period of time, this member never returned. Several months later, someone remarked at a meeting, “Hey, what ever happened to Joe or Samantha?”

I certainly hope this is not a common illustration of what our new members experience. Even if it only happens once, it’s one time too many. It certainly is a good example of what not to do.

In the past, most small towns would engage a small group of individuals to form a “Welcome Wagon.” They would go out of their way make a new resident feel extremely welcome in their community. While it may sound quaint and old-fashioned, I would like to propose that all of our chapters go above and beyond to make new members feel valued by their chapters and all of PTG.

Here are a few ideas to consider from one of our chapters:

1. Send all new members a welcome card signed by all chapter members before they show up for their first meeting.

2. Find out what your new members want and do your best to meet their needs.

3. Set aside 30 minutes for non-RPT member training before your chapter meeting on whatever topics are requested by your new members.

4. Accept new members as they are and encourage them to participate from their own positions of strength. For example, if they are technologically savvy, ask them to help with running online training, monitoring Facebook Live broadcasts, videotaping training, etc.

5. Insert your ideas here, and always be encouraging.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!

Be Safe and Be Well!


Jul 20


PTG Guide to Piano Technology: A Path to RPT Certification

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

This is to inform you of the first tangible results brought forth from our long-range plan by our education committee. On our website, ptg.org, there will be a new link to a comprehensive map of our educational resources, entitled “PTG GUIDE TO PIANO TECHNOLOGY.” It will be laid out in a grid arrangement of tiles on various topics. Clicking on any one tile will open up a drop-down menu displaying a list of resources available for that particular topic. A map key or legend has been set up to differentiate the offerings with the following designations: PTJ for Piano Technicians Journal articles, AV for online academy videos, and PR for print resources.

The first-draft working model will contain the following topic headings:

Vertical Piano Regulation

Action Materials and Repairs

Grand Piano Regulation


Tone, Timbre and Voicing

String Repairs

Case and Finishing Repairs

Piano History

Business and Self-Management

Miscellaneous Materials

Tips, Tools & Techniques (A compilation of this section of the Journal going back years)

Journal Article Index (This may be subdivided and provided under each tile’s drop-
down list.)

In addition to the tiles listed above, there will be five bullet-point links to the following areas:

1. Events

2. The Journal

3. Discussion Groups

4. PTG Store

5. Path to RPT Certification

Number five shown above will open up an extensive document that will provide a study guide for the PTG written exam. It will include a host of materials and various resources to aid our members in passing both the tuning and technical exams. This will help any interested and motivated member achieve the status of Registered Piano Technician.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!


Jun 20


Confidentiality Versus Transparency

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

There is an inherent tension between confidentiality and transparency in the deliberative process. The Supreme Court of the United States described the constitutional and historic basis for confidentiality as “too plain to require further discussion.”

The Court went on to state: “Human experience teaches that those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with a concern for appearances and for their own interest, to the detriment of the decision-making process.” 

A president and those who assist him or her must be free to explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions, and to do so in a way that many would be unwilling to express, except privately. The PTG board of directors needs opportunities where its members can get to know and learn from each other without feeling the need to play to an audience. This process is often referred to as “the sausage making.” These sessions are necessary so that the entire board can freely express their opinions while working toward the best future for PTG. Please know, all board members have the best interests of PTG foremost in their minds.

I would argue that this dictum be applied to our work sessions and special meetings, as it is “too plain to require further discussion.” No official decisions are made, and no votes are taken on anything during work sessions. 

Special meetings are defined in Robert’s Rules of Order as a “separate session of a society (e.g., Council, chapter, board) held at a time different from that of any regular meeting, and convened only to consider one or more items of business …” The reason for special meetings is to deal with matters that may arise between regular meetings and that require immediate action by the board. These can be called on three days’ notice to the members of the board and do not require notice to the membership at large per our bylaws. This should not be misconstrued as secrecy, since all decisions, including minority votes, are published at the conclusion of every meeting. The decision to reschedule this year’s convention is a good example.

Page 96, line 21 of Robert’s on public sessions states: “A deliberative assembly or committee is normally entitled to determine whether nonmembers may attend or be excluded from its meetings (even when not in executive session).” Although sunshine laws require governmental bodies to be open to the public, Robert’s adds the following qualifying language, stating “such laws have no application to private, nongovernmental bodies.”

PTG-L, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have accelerated public discourse to warp speed, creating virtual versions of the mob. Inflammatory posts, based on passion, travel farther and faster than arguments based on reason. Rather than encouraging deliberation, mass media undermines it by creating bubbles and echo chambers in which viewers see only those opinions they already embrace. At one point, this digital zeitgeist caused the board to send a response to PTG-L.

Our regularly scheduled pre- and post-council meetings, as well as our winter board meeting, will continue to provide in-person observer rights to every PTG member in good standing. An exception will be made this summer, as no one is traveling to Orlando.

Democracy is a slow process of stumbling to the right decision instead of going straight forward to the wrong one.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!


May 20


Participation is Paramount

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

In a list of the top ten reasons why an organization or association fails, lack of participation is inscribed on lines one through ten. I don’t mean for this to sound disparaging in any way. Many organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain dedicated volunteers. We have all benefited and been inspired by many of our members over many decades. Having said that, there can come a point known as burn-out. We need fresh blood!

I would like to encourage more of our members to have a deeper sense of commitment to the mission of the Piano Technicians Guild. This most commonly begins at the chapter level, by running for an office. Another route would be to provide a technical presentation on some aspect of piano technology to your fellow chapter members. You will be amazed at the rewards you will receive.

Another approach you could utilize is to go to ptg.org, click on “PTG Members” and then on “Committees.” There you will find a list of 14 standing committees and six board committees and task groups. The vast majority of these are open to all members. Clicking on any of them will show you a list of what they’re supposed to be working on, known as their charges. You do not have to be an expert to participate, and you will learn a great deal by doing so. With so much to choose from, I am sure you will find something that will pique your interest. Contributing to the realization and implementation of the many goals contained in our strategic long-range plan would be a significant contribution to us all. This information was updated on October 30 of 2019 and can be found at tinyurl.com/sd46s78.

You might consider providing an item for the Tips Tools & Techniques column in the Journal. Perhaps you are in a position in your career to submit an article for publication in the Journal.

We are in need of more than a few good people to help PTG move into the future.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!


Apr 20


The Process for Progress

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

Regardless of the form of governance, the only way to effect change or move our organization forward is through a request for action form, a.k.a. an RFA. This is true whether you are a member or an officer on any level, including the PTG president. This is not asking you to do board work. RFAs represent the vast majority of the work that your board deliberates and votes on. The form can be found on PTG.org / PTG members / Forms & Documents, in the “Forms” subfolder. Click to highlight “RFA Proposal Form (Word rev. 2019)” from the list on the right, then click “view” and scroll down to download the file. It can more easily found at tinyurl.com/w6mlj55.

If you as an individual member wish to make a change in how the organization is run, you must first take your idea to your chapter for approval. If the chapter agrees with your suggestion, a chapter officer must download the RFA form as explained above. It is important to mark the checkbox for either Bylaws, Organizational Policies or the GSM (Graphic Standards Manual) to indicate which document you wish to amend. 

Former president Norman Cantrell correctly described bylaws as the foundation of a house. We recently pared down our bylaws to represent that basic foundation. The foundation of any building is rarely changed, if ever. Several years ago, our attorney exclaimed that PTG amended its bylaws on an annual basis, more frequently than a combination of all 200+ other associations he represented. We do not encourage moving or deleting the cinder blocks unless it is an absolute necessity.

Proposed amendments to bylaws must be submitted to the Bylaws Committee (bylaws@ ptg.org) in writing no later than sixty-five (65) days before the meeting at which they are to be considered. Organizational Policy and Graphics Standards Manual (GSM) proposals are due 65 days before the meeting as well and should be sent directly to the Home Office (exec@ptg. org). The second page of the form includes detailed instructions. 

The Bylaws Committee is always willing to help with the construction of a proper RFA. RFAs can be submitted at any time. If they are submitted early enough, they will be included in the “Board Update” column in the Journal.

In a previous President’s Message entitled “Communication is a Two-Way Street,” I made it clear that your board of directors wants to hear from you. A recently produced spreadsheet delineating RFAs presented by the board, our chapters, and our committees from 2013 through 2019 shows a sharp decrease in submissions from the latter two in the last three years.

Please remember: “The RFA Is the Only Way”

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Mar 20


Expense or Investment?

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

Over the history of the PTG, your annual dues have roughly been the equivalent of 2.5 tuning fees when adjusted for inflation. A tremendous amount of good has been accomplished with this investment in our organization. Please do not consider these dues to be an expense, even though it is a tax-deductible item for your business. All of our careers have been advanced exponentially, provided we participated in what PTG has offered. The education provided in our classes, the sharing of knowledge gained from online forums and videos, at chapter meetings, at all-day seminars, during regional and annual conventions, and even in the hallways at all of these events is astounding. The full list of the benefits of membership can be found on our website at tinyurl.com/ra5haw9. The willingness to share by “passing the torch” is something that in many ways is unique to PTG and needs to be celebrated. None of this would happen without a combination of your membership dollars and the generosity of all the volunteer hours that many of your fellow members willingly contribute. It is all available for the taking, and this alone is reason enough to maintain your membership.

Another investment that I would like you to consider is starting to collect chapter dues or increasing what you do collect. Without a significant investment at this level, it is difficult or impossible to present high-quality chapter technical programs or purchase training equipment, e.g., action models, etc. Home Office staff have informed me that there is a wide range of disparity among the chapters in this regard. It runs the gamut from zero to $110 per year. Approximately 25% of our chapters do not charge any dues at all. I implore all chapters to begin to make a change in this regard. One sure-fire way to maintain and add members to your chapter is to provide professional technical presentations. We have help on this topic at our website, where you will find an extremely extensive set of documents called the “Chapter Toolkit.” It would literally take you a month of Sundays to study half of what is contained here. It can be located at tinyurl.com/r653wzj. Also, I would direct your attention to the “Healthy Chapter Profile” document. This will help you evaluate where your chapter sits along the spectrum. It can be found at tinyurl.com/w4llg88.

Let’s continue to invest in our future together!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Feb 20


RPT – A Benchmark, Not a Destination

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

The title of this message is not meant to take way from the importance of achieving your RPT designation and credential. It is an accomplishment that should be savored and celebrated. Having said that, please look around you at all the PTG events and chapter meetings you attend. You will see many members who have attained their RPT long ago.

Why are they still showing up? It is because they know there is always more to learn, even if it is just a new approach to a task they have been performing for years. I have always maintained that whenever you show up, “Just One Tip is Worth the Trip.” This is especially true for our annual convention. The cost of attending should never be viewed as an expense, but rather as a tax-deductible investment in your career.

I would like to implore all of our RPTs, especially those who are newly minted, to encourage other members to challenge our exams. I know there are two main reasons that most members delay the process: fear of failure and the embarrassment that may follow.

Let’s address them both. I know many of my fellow chapter members who did not pass on their first attempts. Yes, they were extremely disappointed and frustrated. However, two things followed: They discovered what they did not know and what they needed to do to pass on their next try, and secondly, all of the members were very supportive, understanding, and willing to help them succeed. No one looked down on them.

We have many forms of assistance available to all members to help achieve your RPT status. Contact your RVP with questions. Here is a list of a few items that will help:

1. Purchase the two exam source books from the PTG store.
2. Ask an RPT in your chapter to evaluate your tuning. They could utilize our pre-screening manual to assist in this pursuit, found at: tinyurl.com/tcwdgrd.
3. Attend an “Exam Prep on the Road” all-day class wherever it is offered.
4. Attend the “Piano Technicians Playground” all-day class with multiple stations on various repair techniques at convention.
5. Purchase the On Pitch book and related DVDs by Rick Baldassin, RPT.
6. Make use of the educational resources available on our website. 
7. Apply for an exam scholarship through the PTG Foundation.
8. Log into my.ptg.org to download and print the RPT certification study guides at tinyurl.com/vcdvv2u.

FYI, it has been determined that the actual cost in equipment and volunteer hours to offer our exams at the convention exceeds $4,000.00. Even if the current price of $180.00 per exam increases, they are still a bargain.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!

Jan 20


Let’s Try Something New!

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

Well, it’s a brand-new year. We all fall into familiar patterns in all aspects of our lives. While change is often perceived as loss, I maintain that an effort to pursue a different path can be very rewarding. A new challenge of any type can produce a refreshing experience. I am not referring to major New Year’s resolutions that quickly dissolve into the ether. Here are just a few suggestions:

1. Experiment with an impact tuning hammer. By reducing repetitive stress and utilizing new muscle groups, you can increase your career’s longevity. You can probably borrow one from a fellow chapter member. Be sure to get some instructions on how to use this tool. I would suggest using it only for pitch raises at first.
2. Try tuning an upright piano with your left hand. This is a technique recommended by many and will also reduce repetitive stress. Keep in mind that any new technique will slow you down at first, so perhaps try it on only one section of the piano.
3. Take the Piano Life Saver exam to get certified as an installer.
4. Purchase and utilize all six PTG technical bulletins to expand your service offerings and your income. They really help educate your customers as they are geared for the piano owner.
5. Offer a discount to all your clients for any referral they supply that results in a new customer.
6. Proper business attire gives a very professional first impression, and we all know you only get one shot at this!
7. Nothing happens until something is sold. Read a book or two on sales techniques and how to close a deal.
8. Save time in the office by purchasing and utilizing a macro program that will instantly type large volumes of text with a single keystroke. This is particularly useful when you need to repeat the same information to multiple clients.
9. Practice a seldom-used repair technique that requires a seldom-used tool.
10. Treat yourself to that new tool you have considered purchasing. It will probably save you time, and therefore money. Plus, you will feel great each time you reach for it.

                                                       Let’s Try Something New This Year.

Once again, I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at pres@ptg.org.

                                                   Onward and Forward with Fervent Endeavor!

Dec 19


Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

Many of you were not present in Tucson when our new long-range plan was introduced. Following is a brief explanation/overview focusing on “seeing the forest for the trees.”

Six strategic initiatives (SIs) are in our plan. These were the result of a brainstorming session that took place during a two-day planning meeting at the home office prior to the usual winter board meeting. We developed the following list:

1. Professional Development
2. Membership Engagement & Equity
3. Building Chapters
4. Marketing & Outreach
5. Our People
6. Operational Excellence & Financial Sustainability

The plan is located in the Member Area in Forms & Documents on ptg.org. I will go into a little more detail here on strategic initiatives #1 and #2. 

• Goals: There are multiple entries for each in the plan.
• Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): These will act as proof that we are in fact reaching the various goals. There are 12 for initiative #1 and 8 for initiative #2.
• Tactics: How do we go about reaching the goals?
• Actions: What do we need to do?
• Responsible Party (RP): Who is responsible? Many areas are yet to be determined.
• Time Frame/Date Range: This gives us a target date for completion.
• Resources Planning Summary: What will we need?
• Strategic Plan Oversight: Who can make changes and at what level?
• Goal Assignment List: What committee or task group has a specific goal?

I hope this helps bring some clarity and focus to a very extensive document. The board will be reviewing this plan on a quarterly basis.

I wish all of you happy holidays and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Onward and forward with fervent endeavor!

Nov 2019


New Board Updates Column

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

Here is one suggested approach regarding a new client:

I am sure most of us ask when the piano was last tuned and if there are any repair issues to be addressed. The next thing I like to assess is who is playing the piano, at what skill level and for how many years. Since you only get one chance to make a first impression, you should assess the vehicle you’re driving, its cleanliness, and the clothing you are wearing.

I always provide a free evaluation of the piano’s condition on my initial service call. After determining the pitch of the instrument, I often provide a PTG technical bulletin on pitch raising for the client to read while I proceed with my examination. The assessment of the piano invariably produces a list of items in need of attention. I discuss this list with the client while keeping in mind the level of the piano player and the family’s budget. Often times, small and inexpensive changes like taking up lost motion by regulating the capstans can produce significant improvement in the response of the piano for a young musician. Although many of us are capable of concert-level action regulation, the expense curve rises geometrically as the circle of refinement proceeds and is not always warranted for a particular instrument or player.

Before presenting your evaluation, you would be wise to assess if there is any emotional connection to the instrument. This will often times override whether spending the client’s money makes any economic sense. I will supply additional PTG technical bulletins on regulation or voicing etc. that are pertinent to my assessment of the piano for the client’s consideration to be performed at an additional appointment.

Finally, you need to assess your skill level regarding any needed repairs. You will often gain the client’s respect and loyalty if you bring in a substitute technician for a particular aspect of the work. I have been asked by RPTs to replace broken agraffes on a Steinway grand on more than one occasion.

Assessing your own needs can best be determined by challenging the RPT exams. The worst that will happen is that you will know what you don’t know and have yet to learn.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and forward with fervent endeavor!

Oct 2019


New Board Updates Column

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

In my election speech, I said the following regarding the board governance model:

“I believe it’s more critical than ever to obtain ‘member buy-in’ regarding large sweeping changes to the organization. This is not to obtain permission, because all decisions now rest with the board of directors, but to provide guidance. To that end, the board will need to provide earlier notification to the members.”

Beginning with this issue of the Journal, there will be a new column inserted on an as-needed basis, entitled “Board Updates.” This will provide notice in a more timely manner of any significant information available. If a minor issue is raised that involves a small change or correction, we consider that “housekeeping” and we will not include that in this world of information overload. There may be times when there is nothing to report. Generally speaking, the board meets twice a year. In between those meetings, often times, nothing is happening.

Keep in mind that while there is a 65-day deadline for submitting a request for action (RFA) of any type, RFAs can be submitted at any time prior to that deadline. As soon as we receive them, they will be added to the next issue of the Journal in this new column.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at pres@ptg.org.

Onward and forward with fervent endeavor!

Sep 2019


Communication is a Two-Way Street

Paul Adams, RPT
PTG President

During our 2019 convention in Tucson, there were numerous requests to improve communication. The following is a list of the current opportunities for communication. These can provide dialogue among our members and between members and the PTG board of directors (BOD).

• 264 forums on my.ptg.org.
• Regional forums produced by each regional vice president (RVP).
• PTG-L, our political forum available to all members, providing you opt-in.
• Council Long Range Planning, found online at tinyurl.com/y3237vbx. This is where the discussion will continue after the long-range plan was presented to Council, approved at the post-Council board meeting and posted online at ptg.org in the Member Area, Forms & Documents section.
• RVP newsletters. Hard copies are snail-mailed to each member three weeks after each BOD meeting.
• Regional vice presidents:
Chris Labarre, RPT – nervp@ptg.org
George W.R. "Bill" Davis, RPT – servp@ptg.org
Douglas Garman, RPT – scrvp@ptg.org
Michael Gutowski, RPT – cervp@ptg.org
Jim Coleman, Jr., RPT – cwrvp@ptg.org
David Stoneman, RPT – wrvp@ptg.org
David Stocker, RPT – pnwrvp@ptg.org

• Executive Committee:
Paul Adams, RPT – pres@ptg.org
Marc Poulin, RPT – vp@ptg.org
Jim Fariss, RPT – sec@ptg.org

• Other avenues of communication include: PTG E-News, Leader Letters, the Journal online, PTG Academy Online and Journal President’s Message. All of the above are posted on the PTG home page in the Member’s Corner section, on the top right-hand side of my.ptg.org.
• Our main website, ptg.org
• Facebook
• Phone
• Texting
• Facebook Messenger
• Attending meetings. All board meetings are open to all members.
• Face-to-face at events
• Surveys: Our last poll from the Presidential Task Group had only a 16% response.
• There will be a new column added to the Journal, as needed, entitled “Board Updates.” Any questions or concerns should be posted to your Regional Communities.

Since one of the top ten ways to cause the demise of any organization is to not participate, I implore all of you to do so. We have many communication avenues already in place. Direct any questions or comments to me at pres@ptg.org. I look forward to hearing from you at any time. Please remember, “Communication is a Two-Way Street.”