Purdy finds joy in music while tuning the pianos
Five-thirty in the morning is usually a fairly quiet time on the Ohio University campus, but not for Chris Purdy. This is usually around the time he arrives at a recital hall to do his daily tuning of the grand pianos therein.
Every musician, whether they play piano, guitar, or even use their voice, uses an instrument. When using an instrument, maintenance and care are required. For the 116 pianos at the OHIO School of Music, that’s where Purdy comes in — he’s the only piano technician at Ohio University.
Purdy was born in Ohio but attended Eastern Kentucky University majoring in music education. However, Purdy explains that by the end of the 1970s, the economy had deteriorated, causing job opportunities to disappear. He decided to study the mechanical side of music and earned an associate’s degree in piano tuning and repair. This allowed him to stay in the music business artistically and professionally.
Purdy now works at OHIO, where he mentors and teaches students while maintaining every piano owned by the University. Since Purdy is the only technician, he has a busy schedule. Purdy comes into work anytime between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. to get the pianos ready in the recital hall, as these are the most used pianos and are constantly booked up. The two grand pianos in the room must be tuned before each recital. Purdy’s afternoons are spent teaching with his three students, but last year Purdy had six students he taught.
“I teach students in different ways. I have an independent study course, Honors Tutorial College students, working students, and even students who are paid to learn,” Purdy said. “It’s hard enough to get trained in this field, but it’s even harder to get paid to learn. That’s why I’m motivated to do it.
Being the only piano technician while teaching balance can be challenging. Purdy said the biggest challenge he has is that the pianos he tunes are played around 20 hours a day which causes the piano to wear out much faster so he is doing major work that needs to be done every 10 to 15 years and usually only needs to be done every 50 years. Another challenge is that humidity has a huge effect on a piano’s tuning. When the humidity changes drastically, the quality of the piano also changes, so when there is a cold snap, he has to go in and retune each piano.
Although Purdy’s job comes with challenges, it also has its share of benefits. Purdy shares his love of music and teaches it to other students, which is one of his favorite parts of his job. He also continues to work in music and meets musicians all day.
Student Andrea Tinajero said she learned a lot from Purdy.
“I learned a lot, but I think the biggest thing I learned from him was to listen and not just hear,” Tinajero said. “It taught me what to listen to while playing and how to really push your ears to listen to what you want to hear. This program also taught me patience and knowing when to stop. We always joke about us being OCD musicians, which is a good thing and a bad thing, but I’ve learned that you’re not going to be perfect.
This program and what Purdy is doing for Ohio University is a great resource. According to Tinajero, Purdy is a super approachable person and enjoys teaching his students. He wants you to learn everything and learn it well.
Purdy made a significant contribution to the Ohio university community. From teaching to caring for the piano, Purdy encourages the entire Ohio University to study this program and better understand the art and necessity of piano technicians.