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Bill Miller, piano man extraordinaire

Tulsa’s skillful piano exper

Talk about an interesting life journey, Tulsan Bill Miller is a third generation craftsman in a family with 157 years of combined experience with a love of music. Following the path of his German grandfather and father, Bill provides world-class service and piano repair work and distinct, old-world remediation strategies with museum-quality restorations which he began learning at an early age.

Early on Bill’s adventure took him to the other side of the world via serving in the US Navy from 1952 to 1960 where he suffered a major injury on board a ship resulting in a three month stint in the hospital. “We took Marines to 38th parallel in the Korean police action. It got down to twenty below zero over there, and we were not outfitted for twenty below.”

Returning from military service, Bill took a job sacking groceries at Safeway. “There weren’t a lot of jobs back then. I made 28 cents and hour and worked 50 plus hours a week and the rent on my apartment was fifty dollars a month.” Luckily, after two years, Bill was hired by American Airlines where he spent thirty-eight years doing aircraft maintenance. After hours he worked for Tulsa Public Schools tuning all the pianos owned by the school system, which numbered in the hundreds. “I tuned every piano twice a year.”

One of those TPS pianos, a Baldwin grand, was played by an up and coming musician named Leon Russell. “Leon practiced on the piano at Second Baptist Church in Tulsa. They banned him from playing it because he was a banger (rough on the piano). I set up a piano for him in the basement of the church”

When it comes to piano restoration, Bill assures you should never anguish over impossible piano damage. “No matter what disaster has befallen your concert piano, priceless antique, or household treasure, I can recover the charm and pride of your treasure. I have restored pianos damaged by tornadoes, fires, and floods. One was a baby grand crushed among the rubble of the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado. That piano was filled with glass and other debris and had many scratches.” The owner praises Bill’s hard work restoring both the look of her piano and how it plays. He recently completed restoration of an 1830 piano with four legs from London, England.

At one time Bill’s company had three locations in Tulsa. These days he, along with his wife, works out of their garage. “There’s plenty of business tuning, repairing, and restoring pianos.” Currently they’re working on 1909 and 1920 uprights and an 1880s square grand with four legs measuring five feet wide and seven feet long. Bill reminisced about the cost of petroleum based products he uses in restoration. “I used to get cans of stain for eleven cents. Now it’s forty-nine dollars. Lacquer thinner that was 89 cents a can now runs twenty-seven dollars.”

Bill shared tips to care for and extend the life of your piano. “All manufacturers recommend tuning pianos at regular intervals. A good rule to follow is to have your piano tuned when you turn on the heat, and then when you switch on the air conditioning. Humidity, temperature, and exposure to sunlight all impact the sound quality and appearance of your piano. Expert tuning keeps the proper stress on the strings. Absence of tuning can cause a wide range of issues including fractures on the sound board. We can change worn parts with new pieces, clean the interior, and refinish the outside.”

Bill Miller