The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Piano Tuner, Music Teacher, and Multi-Instrumentalist, Rebecca Kayorie
By Gabriella Steffenberg
Many of us have our own niches in life that we work toward and naturally gravitate to. For Rebeca Kayorie, she happens to have six specialties down pat.
Based in Buffalo, New York, Kayorie is a piano technician through her business, The Piano Tuna, and offers music lessons in voice, piano, guitar, violin, and trumpet.
Keep up with Kayorie through The Piano Tuna’s Facebook page, here.
WiMN: You teach so many different instruments, on top of being a piano technician – that’s no easy feat! How long have you been playing the piano, violin, guitar, and trumpet for, and do you have a favorite?
RK: The first instrument I ever took lessons in was the piano. As soon as I was old enough, I started taking voice lessons.
Later I attended SUNY Potsdam to study voice. There I took classes in guitar, trumpet, and trombone. I also learned to play the violin from a friend who played. I love teaching any instrument, but piano and voice are probably my favorite. I specialize in opera and contemporary classical music, but I will teach students to sing whatever moves them.
WiMN: How long did it take you to earn your certifications for piano tuning?
RK: It took me about six months to earn my certification, although you don’t need one in order to tune. I really feel like this is a skill you learn by doing. I have learned something from every piano I’ve ever worked on and I expect that will always be true. Each piano has a personality and my goal is to work with it, not to work ON it.
Pianos are a little like people. Something that works for one piano may not work on another. I’ve heard people describe piano tuning as a science, but I think it is really more about compromise. If you don’t compromise with the piano, you break it. So you and the piano have to work together.
WiMN: How did your business, The Piano Tuna, originate?
RK: I knew I wanted to work as a piano technician before I even learned how to do it. I was determined to learn how to do it and do it well, so I dove into study and started my business after I felt confident that I could do the job well. It was a huge risk to quit my full-time job and start my own business, but I’m glad I did. It’s so satisfying to look at something tangible that you fixed, or that you made better, and give that back to a client.
In this world of technology and computer screens, it’s so refreshing to work on something tangible. Every time I take out a screwdriver to open up a piano, I smile. It’s an honor to be able to be a part of this old tradition. My husband came up with the name “The Piano Tuna.” I thought it was so funny! Now whenever I say it to someone, they always laugh and smile.
WiMN: If your piano could talk, what would it say?
RK: If my piano could talk, it would probably tell me to stop using it to practice on. My piano has probably been tuned more often than any piano I’ve ever worked on.
When I was first learning to tune and repair pianos, I would take parts out of my own piano and study them. I used my own piano to practice new techniques, try out new repair tools, and occasionally I would even borrow some of its parts if I needed something in a pinch.
WiMN: Have you always known you wanted to be a piano technician and a private music teacher?
RK: I always knew that I loved music and never wanted to be without it. I had great private music teachers and always wanted to do that. Working as a piano technician never occurred to me. I can’t think of a time that I called to get something repaired and a woman opened the door. I always knew that I was good at fixing things but I didn’t picture myself doing that until a friend of mine said that she wanted to learn how to tune. For her, it was a curiosity, but for me it became a career.
WiMN: Tell us about one of your greatest student success stories.
RK: I consider every student I’ve ever had to be a success story in their own way. They have all accomplished great things. When one of my students gets the part they auditioned for, finishes their method book and goes on to the next one, or learns a skill that was hard for them I consider that a great success.
Before becoming a private music teacher and piano technician, I taught music to students with developmental disabilities. I am probably most proud of their successes. Their drive has inspired me and taught me that perseverance and hard work pay off.
WiMN: Who have been your biggest inspirations in the music industry?
RK: My very first inspiration was my mother, who is an accomplished organist and pianist. I always heard music in my house while my mother practiced. She taught me to love music, and she showed me what a hard working musician looked like.
When I was studying voice at SUNY Potsdam, Renee Fleming came to sing for a master class. I was in awe of her talent as a classical singer and her professional confidence as a vocal coach. That experience was hugely influential to me.
Another more popular artist who really impresses me is Taylor Swift. I have always really respected artists who not only perform, but also write their own music. She is also a great business person, and I think women in the music business would do well to take a page out of her playbook.
WiMN: What advice would you give to women who want to be in the technical realm of the music business?
RK: I would congratulate these women for thinking creatively about their options. Consumers want to see women doing these jobs and some of them would rather hire a woman than a man. Some people find it less threatening for a woman to come into their home than a man.
I often compare piano repair to car repair. Consumers who need their car fixed want the same things that piano repair consumers want. They want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, will tell them the truth, charge a fair price, and be friendly. If you can do that, then you can do this job.
WiMN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
RK: I’m always trying to build my business and learn new skills. In 10 years, I hope that I will be rebuilding pianos and maybe have my own apprentice. I’m sure I’ll still be teaching, but I’d love to learn to play some woodwind instruments so that I can add those to the list.