Taking care of institutional pianos
Although the need to service a piano in a small institution like a church or a school is the same as the need to service a piano in a private home, there are two major difference.
First is the use of the instruments. In most churches and schools there are usually one or two pianos that are constantly used for rehearsals and/or performances or services. This means these pianos will need more frequent and/or additional repairs and regulation over and above the regular tuning.
Second is the person who is responsible for making sure the pianos are serviced. In a private studio, you are personally responsible to call the piano technician. But in most churches and schools there are usually several people who play the piano, and they may be part time, and thus might not think it is their responsibility to ask about the care of the piano. As a result, the pianos are neglected.
It would be a good policy for a church or school to make it part of the choir/chorus/music director’s job description to make sure the piano(s) are maintained. In addition to making sure there is a line item in the budget for piano tuning and repairing, this person should also be responsible to schedule appointments.
When it is your responsibility to schedule an appointment with the piano tuner, besides giving the name and address of the institution, there are three other names and phone numbers the piano tuner should have. First is your name and phone number, and the relationship with the church or school. Second is the name and phone number of the person whom the piano tuner should see when he/she gets to the building. By same token, make sure you let that person know the piano tuner is coming, and make sure he/she knows which piano(s) need to be tuned. And the third name and phone number the tuner should have is the person who has the authority to allow additional work to be done to the piano, in case there are minor repairs that need to be done.
When you schedule an appointment, be sure to give the piano tuner enough notice. There are times, however, when there is an emergency. (a string broke during rehearsal, or an item fell inside the piano). In that case, be flexible with your schedule, to allow the tuner time to service the piano.
One emergency a piano tuner doesn’t like to hear, however, is: “We have a concert tonight, and the piano needs tuning”. That is not an emergency. That’s someone not planning ahead. As the old adage goes, “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. So please, when there is a special program or concert, call the piano tuner when the program is put on the calendar, not the night before.
One way a church or school can avoid emergencies is to pre-schedule regular tunings. When the primary piano is used often, pre-scheduling appointments is beneficial for both parties. This schedule could be as often as once a week, once a month, or as infrequent as every six months. The nice thing about this kind of set up is that the lines of communications are kept open. Keeping the piano tuner informed about concerts and special programs will allow both of you to plan ahead.
Some piano tuners want a contract for service. While there is nothing wrong with a contract, that contract should benefit both parties. In addition to stating when the pianos will be tuned, and how payments are made, the institution should also have the right to terminate the contract at their discretion in the event the institution is not satisfied with the service.
Speaking of payments, please remember that piano tuners are independent contractors. They like to get paid when the job is done. However, they also recognize that payments need to be processed. So unless there are unusual circumstances, it would be greatly appreciated if that payment can be made within a week, or less. The sooner the piano tuner gets paid, the more cooperative he/she will be when there is an emergency.
A piano can provide many years of service and enjoyment for school or church if it is properly maintained. Sometimes the piano tuner will recommend additional repairs and regulations. Taking care of minor problems early will keep the piano from falling into disrepair, which might necessitate major repairs later on.