Oberlin Piano Tech Program Graduates First Class

Two-year-old program matches alumni with careers worldwide.

June 15, 2016

Erich Burnett

Yu Jiaao and Chun Yen Chen.
Yu Jiaao (left) and Chun Yen Chen are the first graduates of Oberlin's Artist Diploma in Piano Technology program.
Photo credit: courtesy Conservatory Communications

In the fall of 2014, Oberlin collaborated with Steinway & Sons to launch an exclusive two-year program called the Artist Diploma in Piano Technology. Intended for advanced technicians looking to hone their already developed skills in tuning, repair, and restoration of modern and historical keyboards, the graduate-level program yielded its first class in the spring of 2016.


“The program is designed to bridge the gap between piano technology and the concert pianist,” says John Cavanaugh, Oberlin’s executive director of keyboard technology. Cavanaugh administers the program, with additional instruction and mentorship from fellow Oberlin technicians Robert Murphy and Ken Sloane, visiting teachers from Steinway’s New York factory, and independent master technicians.

Both graduating students have stepped directly into coveted positions: Chun Yen Chen has been hired as a senior piano technician by Steinway & Sons in his native China. Yu Jiaao, also from China, earned an esteemed one-year fellowship in the piano technology department at the Juilliard School. He will work at Tanglewood in the summer and in New York during the 2016-17 academic year. After that, he will most likely return to his home city, Beijing, where he plans to work as a technician and teacher at one of Beijing’s conservatories.

This story first appeared in the 2016 Oberlin Conservatory Magazine.

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