Our History

There is no formal piano technology department on campus. All of Radcliffe and most of Harvard College, including the Music Department, contract with outside technicians to have their pianos tuned three times per year.

Upon the urging of Luise Vosgerchian, Harvard Music Department Chair, FAS agrees to hire David Cybulski, ’74 to be the first full-time piano technician after he completes a 10 month piano technology program at the North Bennet Street School.

Mr. Cybulski is provided a small workspace located in the basement of the Engineering Science Lab at 40 Oxford Street, and becomes the first salaried piano technician at Harvard. His job is to tune and maintain the College’s 130 pianos and perform all concert work at Sanders Theater and Paine Hall.

A new Steinway Model D concert grand is purchased to reside permanently at Sanders Theater. Up until now, when a piano was needed in Sanders it was rented and tuned by an outside technician.

Mr. Cybulski is provided with a larger shop space in the Vanserg Building as well as an additional half time employee to help with tuning. Full case refinishing is added to the services they provide.

The half time position is changed to full time, and Mr. Cybulski hires recent North Bennet Street graduate Lewis Surdam to fill the post. His job is to tune four to five pianos per day.

The Harvard piano shop is moved to the ground level floor of Jefferson Lab, conveniently located adjacent to Paine Hall, and a large, professional spray booth is constructed.

Mr. Cybulski resigns and Mr. Surdam is hired to fill his position. The Administration asks Robert Doyle, Director of Instructional Media Services, to oversee all facets of the piano maintenance group. Dr. Doyle completely restructures the program, naming it Piano Technical Services (PTS), and establishes an annual operating budget. Toni Wood is hired as a full-time piano technician.

Dr. Doyle adds a half time position to the staff which Toni Wood fills, and Laurie Cote is hired to fill the full time position. Productivity in terms of piano rebuilding jumps from two to four grands per year, and the number of pianos tuned per week increases to over twenty.

The Physics Department reclaims its space in Jefferson, and again PTS is in search of a home. After an interesting year spent in the Cyclotron Building, the shop is moved to a newly renovated space in Vanserg. Economic and environmental concerns combine to terminate the case refinishing services on campus.

FAS grants funding over a five year period to completely rebuild and refinish ten Mason & Hamlins and Steinway Grands owned by the Music Dept.

The Music Department purchases a new Steinway model D concert grand for Paine Hall and four new Steinway verticals for the basement practice rooms. Paine Hall now has two, nine foot Concert Grands from which faculty and performers can select. Ms. Wood resigns and Leonard Richardson is hired to fill her position.

PTS provides newly renovated Lowell Lecture Hall with a vintage Mason & Hamlin BB concert instrument and a Steinway vertical.

Mr. Richardson moves with his family to the west coast and Patricia Murphy Cabot accepts a half time position.

Memorial Hall purchases a new Steinway concert grand for recently refurbished Sanders Theater and celebrates with an eight piano concert. Master tuner Laurie Cote spends thirteen hours tuning the eight instruments together, and another seven hours to maintain exact pitch so that director James Yannatos can conduct Carl Czerny’s arrangement of the overture to Rossini’s Semiramide for eight pianos, thirty two hands. The standing room only audience erupts with appreciation and demands to hear the piece a second time.

Austin Grimes joins the staff in a part time capacity to help with the tuning load, which has gradually increased over the years through new purchases and donations. Five freshman dorms in the Yard are each equipped with one to two upright pianos in newly installed practice rooms.

The Music Department indefinitely loans a seven foot Baldwin concert grand to Memorial Church, and a six foot Steinway L to Holden Chapel. Pianos are popping up everywhere.

Laurie Cote retires after twenty years of service as the primary concert tuner. Piano Technical Services is restructured and Austin Grimes, Mariana Lincoln and Paul Rattigan are hired to create a staff of four. There are now more than 200 pianos in use throughout 54 FAS owned buildings.

New College Theater opens and two new, high quality uprights are installed. Memorial Hall purchases a new Yamaha upright giving them two good pianos in the basement area, and the Music Department loans them a six foot Steinway grand for the Green Room.

Several pianos return from the rebuilders including a Steinway L for Byerly Hall, a Mason & Hamlin AA for Holden Chapel and a Steinway S for the Music Building. Harvard acquires two new donations; a Steinway M that is given to Cabot House and a Hubbard copy of an Italian spinet which goes into the Early Instrument Room in the Music Building.

With the temporary suspension of rebuilds, PTS offers discounted action restorations to several Houses and departments. After 29 years at Harvard, Lew Surdam retires. Mariana Lincoln is hired to fill the position of Manager at PTS. In November, Richard Gruenler is hired to fill the part time position.

The FDR Suite at Adams House is remodeled and PTS restores a vintage upright piano for the space. Several pianos at the Music Department are rebuilt.

Paine Hall undergoes a renovation and all pianos are moved out; some stored but many brought to the shop to be rebuilt. The two concert grand pianos in Paine Hall theatre were craned out through the window and sent to an outside vendor to be fully rebuilt and refinished. The Media Production Center Studio is equipped with a restored Steinway model L grand piano from PTS. Renowned pianist Alfred Brendel visits Harvard for a lecture and master class.

Music Department piano rebuilds continue while part of the building is being renovated.
PTS begins the restoration projects of the Mather House residence Steinway model B and the Dunster House Steinway model A.

PTS begins the rebuilding of a Steinway model B grand piano which will be the future rental instrument. PTS prepares the performance pianos for Wynton Marsalis, Sergei Shepkin, Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, Randall Hodgkinson, Natalie McMaster, and Barbara Cook.

PTS completes its rebuild of a donated Steinway Model B grand piano to serve as its rental piano.
It makes its concert debut on the Sanders Theatre stage in a performance of Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle with the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus.