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Meet Joel Haasenritter of Sound Piano Services

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joel Haasenritter.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Joel. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
From an early age, my love for music and the piano was instilled in me by my amazing Mom, who was one of the keyboardists at our church. I would typically sit next to the piano or organ as she would play, and my passion for the piano was born. When I was around thirteen years old, a family friend (and piano technician) approached my parents about me riding along with him during tunings. What a great opportunity for me to explore this instrument, one that lead to working in his shop during the summer.

This was an eye opening experience for me to see the intricacies of the piano’s inner workings, and I am grateful for the opportunity he gave. My fascination was fueled, and I not only learned how the piano is made, but also that I really enjoyed working with my hands. I continued with him for several years off and on through high school, then took a hiatus to begin college. Later, I started working with another rebuilding shop where I grasped even more details on tuning, repair, and rebuilding. This was my vocational home for several more years until I realized that in order to truly understand the complexity of bringing out the very best in the tone and touch of this amazing instrument, I really needed to seek the tutelage of the manufacturers that make them. It was around this time that I joined the Piano Technicians Guild and passed their certification exams to become an RPT (Registered Piano Technician).

I also befriended Harry Cardwell (former Chief Piano Technician of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) and Don Bennett of Pianoworks (a premier rebuilder of concert pianos) who were both incredibly instrumental in taking my skills to the next level. But among the absolute highlights of my journey was being invited (along with my brother and fellow technician) to spend three weeks in Vienna, Austria working one-on-one with a concert technician in the Bosendorfer Piano factory, considered among the finest pianos anywhere in the world! Not long after, I was invited to train at the Yamaha Corporate Headquarters in California, and most recently at Steinway & Sons in New York. In all, I have had the immense privilege to train at four different piano factories in three different countries, in addition to many local, regional and national seminars. The perspective it has given me to see these pianos from their conception to the final product has been incredibly influential on me as a certified technician.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This is a very unique industry, even among sub-industries within the arts. The piano’s transition from the harpsichord to what we now enjoy began in the early 1700’s. As such, the piano industry has seen great challenges through the years and also amazing transformations to bring us such an inspirational instrument that can both fill an entire concert hall and also provide one of the best foundational tools for budding musicians in a home. Of course, through the last three centuries, the many regional and world wars, and economic highs and lows throughout the globe has certainly had an impact. Our most recent challenge was the real estate collapse and economic recession. People losing their jobs, their homes, having to relocate on short notice just to keep afloat definitely took its toll. Manufacturers, dealers, and service professionals do their best to survive during such times, but unfortunately, many piano businesses were met with demise. We will always be grateful for the individuals, piano teachers, churches, and institutions who have continued to place their pianos in our care, and we consider ourselves fortunate to be among those able to continue practicing our craft.

Please tell us about Sound Piano Services.
We prefer to “specialize” in what matters most for your piano, for your specific need. Our customers include concert halls and universities like The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Oglethorpe University and Morehouse College; private schools like Wesleyan and Paideia Schools; Churches such as Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Church of the Apostles and many others. But what really keeps us motivated is making sure the piano’s we service are at their very best to inspire the next generation of young musicians and piano performers. The future of this industry and the arts in general will be tied to the fascination of our children and grandchildren. So we do our best to make recommendations based on how your piano is used and to what level of proficiency. In other words, our recommended maintenance for the concert hall piano might differ from our suggestions for your child’s piano at home. But both will be for the purpose of maximizing your experience every time a key is played.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I am a firm believer that progress, understanding, learning, etc. can be attributed to the quality and quantity of the questions being asked, either to yourself or to others. And sometimes the answer you need the most is for the question you don’t even know to ask. It was years into my journey before I became aware of educational programs offered at the national level and through piano manufacturers. If I had to do it over again, I would try to ask better questions more often so I could gain higher levels of understanding and proficiency sooner.

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