The Oberlin Difference
Oberlin’s emphasis on developing technicians into concert-level specialists in tuning and voicing sets the program apart from traditional piano technology programs. Our students experience guided interaction with conservatory piano faculty and visiting concert artists, through which they learn how to translate the artists’ intentions into technical plans that meet their needs.
We don’t go to a piano and just start working on it. We survey the problem. We think about how we can make its strengths better and how we can camouflage its weaknesses. And then we go to work.
John Cavanaugh, Executive Director of Keyboard Technology
The Artist Diploma in Piano Technology curriculum consists of four semesters of study with piano tech faculty John Cavanaugh and Robert Murphy, as well as immersive training with Patrick and LuAnne DeBeliso of PianoCrafters Inc. in Plymouth, Michigan, and instruction with Steinway factory technicians. Additional applied study includes dialogue with concert artists and hands-on training by world-class concert piano technicians.
The teaching faculty provides daily mentoring, works alongside the student, assesses the student’s work, and provides feedback. Special attention is devoted to understanding tuning theory in equal and historical temperaments, with emphasis in the first year on tuning with accuracy and speed. Students learn to work independently on assigned projects and have opportunities to discuss their work with a supervisor.
Although the program emphasizes concert prep skills, its scope is much broader. In addition to training students in concert tuning and preparation, instructors and staff help students develop rebuilding and shop skills. This includes installing a new pinblock in the Steinway tradition, replacing bridge caps, soundboard repairs, and complete regulation of the action and damper action. At the end of the first year, each student is evaluated by a representative of the Steinway factory.
Second-year students continue to tune and prepare pianos for junior and senior recitals, recordings, and master classes. Work in the shop continues with forefinishing a grand action and complete installation and regulation of a damper system at PianoCrafters Inc., and one week of training in tonal and action regulation with a Steinway representative from the New York factory.
The final semester is dedicated to working with concert pianists to bridge the communication gap that so often occurs between artists and technicians. This includes opportunities to evaluate Steinway grands with an artist and piano technician instructor, discussing what the artist would like from the piano, and implementing a course of action under the supervision of the instructor. This is followed by a discussion with the artist about the results of the technical work.
Throughout the two-year course of study, time is devoted to the restoration and servicing of harpsichords and fortepianos, the historical predecessors of the modern piano.
Tuition & Fees
Tuition and fees listed below are for students matriculating in Fall 2021 and constitute one full academic year of study.
Student Health Fee: $304
Supplemental Health Insurance: $2,184 (required for international students)
Housing and Dining: We do not offer housing or dining plans on campus through the Office of Residential Education and Dining Services for students enrolled in the Artist Diploma in Piano Technology program. However, there are many affordable apartment and rental property options in the Oberlin community, many within walking distance to campus. Students are responsible for making their own housing and dining arrangements. We estimate these expenses at $7,500 per academic year.
We do not offer institutional financial aid for this program. Domestic students may be eligible for the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan. You can find more information about this type of student loan and apply using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the Federal Student Aid website. International students will be required to complete the International Student Certification of Finances form to verify available or planned funds that include all expenses listed above (approximately $39,988).
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Oberlin Conservatory’s Piano Technology program welcomes students at any stage in the profession, from beginners to working technicians.