PTG of course is the Piano Technicians Guild and this years convention was held in Grand Rapids Michigan. Grand Rapids is a pain to get to but is a lovely little city with a fantastic convention facility.
For the past number of years Ferdinand Braeu, our Technical Director has given a class on Maintaining the Bosendorfer Tone. The class combined theory and hands on voicing and has been well received. Ferdinand couldn’t make it this year due to his being needed at the introduction of the new Audi designed Bosendorfer at Audi headquarters in Germany. The replacement instructor got hung up in Paris with passport problems. It seems that the US introduced a new regulation on July 1 requriing that visitors from europe use a passport with an embedded computer readable chip. It didn’t matter that he was using an otherwise perfectly valid Swiss passport – he couldn’t get on the plane.
So Gerald Stremnitzer, a somewhat frequent visitor to the US, cut his holiday short and came over in time for the 2nd of our 2 scheduled classes.
The first class had to be rescheduled to the first time slot of the first day, so attendance was quite low. Despite this inconvenience I led a spirited discussion of voicing and high end piano jive among the 4 students
Stremnitzer’s class was held as scheduled so the attendance was quite a bit better. He did a great job and we had about 30 serious attendees who asked good questions. There was one very interesting point made. An attendee made a valid observation that factory technicians like Herr Stremnitzer have very deep knowledge about one manufacturer but their experience is not as broad over different makers. The attendee continued the observation to say that a skilled RPT could perhaps do a better job on a piano of a different make than could a dedicated factory tech, meaning that the breadth of experience a skilled independent American tech might have would, in that case, be better than the deep experience of the factory tech. To this Gerald replied: “I don’t think so”.
This was very funny and very true. It’s more of a comment on skill levels between Europe and the US. Those who work for one of the top 8 or 10 makers have reached a professional peak by going through a rather strict training sequence, one far more demanding than anything organized and available in the US. There are some wonderfully skilled technicians in the US and the depth of knowledge of the average PTG member grows constantely. But the hands on practice on high end pianos, under the watchful eye of a skilled master, over a period of years, is hard to come by here.
Training trumps experience? Of course, not quite so simple.