EPISODE 66: Josh Gaither From US Army to Piano Tuner (Technician) to the Stars (and All of Knoxville)

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Josh Gaither believes every piano has a soul and they speak to him when he works on them. That passion for his work shines through with every piano he tunes.

By the time my husband and I relocated our family to Knoxville, our daughter had been playing the piano and taking lessons regularly for six years (she’s up to 10 years now!). We didn’t have a piano, but my parents bought a piano for me back when I was a young teenager in the 1980s. As had been a common theme with me, I lost interest after a couple years, yet, that piano graced their home for decades. Knowing my daughter’s love of playing, they gifted her the piano, and had it shipped to our new home.

I didn’t realize how badly it was in need of tuning, but my daughter did. After a search for a qualified piano tuner, I came across Josh Gaither at Volunteer Piano, and our instrument has never been better. It sounds like a beautiful new piano and our daughter loves when Josh tunes it for her (twice so far).

At our appointment last week, I watched Josh lovingly remove the top to our piano, and tune every single tuning pin – all 88 of them, tweaking and slightly turning each one until the key made just the right sound. We got to talking and I could see how passionate he was about something that is not a career most people would even think of. And he told me interesting stories of the rich and famous people’s piano’s he’d worked on. That’s when I knew I had to have him as a guest! I look forward to learning more about him and what inspired him to start a piano tuning business.

Here’s His Offical Bio from his website:

Josh Gaither established Volunteer Piano in 2008 in Knoxville, TN. He has been a Knoxville resident for the past 30 years and is a veteran of the United States Army; he served as a Forward Observer from 2002-2005. He attended Pellissippi Technical Community College, and later the University of Tennessee, where he studied jazz piano performance, music theory and composition, and ethnomusicology. While his primary performance instrument is the piano, he also studies and has taught the guitar, bass, drums, violin, cello, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and voice to music lovers of all ages.

His love for music emerged at age three when he discovered the piano in his family’s living room. As he matured, he became fascinated by music’s properties of sound and time (dilation), especially as demonstrated by the greatest musical instrument ever designed: the piano. No instrument can encompass the range or surpass the simplicity of the piano, for music theory’s sake.

In 2005, after his honorable discharge from the military, he developed a fascination of the mechanics of the piano. He held a three-year apprenticeship at Mayhew Piano Restoration under Dennis Mayhew Sr., where he gained extensive and valuable knowledge of all elements of piano tuning, service, and restoration. During his time at Mayhew Piano Restoration, he was mentored by Knoxville master technicians Frank Hambright, Oscar Kirkland, Tim Johnson, and Mike Tipton. The expertise, dedication to perfection, and general knowledge of these technical masters of piano molded Josh into the piano tuner and technician that he is today.

Josh is the a Steinway and Sons factory trained technician and the go-to Steinway technician for East Tennessee. He travels to the Steinway factory in Astoria, Queens, NY every 6 months to a year and has completed the following training courses: Action Touch/Regulation, Spirio Player Piano Regulation, and Damper Installation.

If you’re a piano lover, you can see photos and video of pianos Josh has restored over the years and more fun piano memes on his Facebook Page here. And if you’re in or near Knoxville and you need your piano tuned, call Josh Gaither at Volunteer Piano! (Tell him you heard about him on my show.) You’ll be happy you did!