An Interview with David Patterson

January 19, 2011 | Leave a Comment

How long have you been doing this?
Well, if you mean in any capacity, I could say since 1970. Working professionally part-time would be 1973. And working full-time: 1976. But, y’know I’ve always noticed that the “How long?” question is what people will ask, rarely is it “How many?” So if a person has worked at some other job and tuned 10 pianos a year for 40 years — big deal. That’s not much experience. I surpassed 30,000 servicings in 2006. That’s more important than the 40 years I’ve been doing it.

So you’re saying that the value relates to the experience?
Ya. Hey, I do a bit of brain surgery on the side, but do you want me working on your children?

How did you learn to tune pianos?
You realise these are all the same questions we get all day.[laughs]

Well, you should get the answer right, then, shouldn,t you?
Ya. Me learning piano technology: I credit the Guild organizations, with their great teaching and testing environment. A lot of tremendous volunteers in these Guilds allowed me to be self-taught, and do what I do. The Piano Technicians Guild is international. They’ve gotta lot of classes, seminars, conventions – as well as an award-winning monthly Journal and local chapter meetings. Our chapter hosted the annual convention in Toronto and had 1200 attendees – the most ever.

So what is a Registered Technician?
Once a person passes all three examination segments, they get the designation RPT, which is Registered Piano Technician. I’m a 25-year RPT member.

And are you pretty active in these Guilds?
Well, wait a minute. Remember I said there are four. There’s the Ontario Guild [OGPT], the Canadian Association [CAPT], and the Master Piano Technicians [MPT]. And in the past I have been very, very active. Lately, I’m not proud to say, I have not been contributing.

No classes, either?
Y’know, I went to over a thousand seminars, including local non-technical-skill types of self-improvement classes. But that was all more than ten years ago. Like I said, it’s embarassing. No classes, no teaching, no running for office, no writing articles. Of course, I do keep up on the written material.

What happened?
Too many Guilds? [laughs] Look, Jim…. [pauses] Well, there’s no alibi for anybody being non-involved in their professional community, or any community. Certainly my family now consumes resources of time and energy, but it’s indefensible to have a habit of not contributing. I hope someday the enthusiasm will be back.

What about your tuning and rebuilding? Do you have a first love in your work?
Not really. I like the regulating; I like being in so many diverse households during the service calls. I love the rebuilding.

What’s your favourite piano?
Like most people, I like the incredibly expensive ones the best.

Do you play as well?
Yes, I do – strictly as a hobby.

Now, you told me you’ve been using variable rates for over ten years. What is that?
I guess that’s our company trying to move away from the traditional “How much for a tuning?” type of approach. On any given week’s rate, we factor in our own schedule & availability, time of day or day of the week they want, season, whether they are way out of the GTA — even fuel rates.

But what about your repeat clients?
Well, they get fixed rates. And reduced rates. They are committed to us and support us year-round, and we give a tremendous value. Piano owners can be fantastic types of clients to look after, y’know.

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