Piano Notes

Written by Lindsay Whelchel in the March 2013 Issue

Bruce PianoDodging roadies and stage hands while setting up a U2 concert or tuning equipment before a legendary performance by the Eagles or chatting with Michael Bublé—it’s all in a day’s work for Gary Bruce and his son Jordan.

Working with pianos comes naturally to the father-son duo. Gary Bruce began in the piano tuning business in 1979, catering to a range of client needs. Whether handling the annual tuning of a family piano or restoring a prized classic, Bruce Piano of Edmond approaches each task as a labor of love. They are frequently called to concert venues, movie sets, and other on-scene locations to tune the pianos that will be used. In addition, they manage the tuning for area schools and organizations like OSU and Oklahoma Christian University. They also refurbish and move the majestic instruments.

Bruce grew up involved in music, performing in bands and majoring in it in college. While in school he met his wife, also a music major. They married, moved to Edmond and had four children. In addition to Jordan, who is the oldest and involved full-time in the family business, the three other children have carried on the love of music, studying it in college. Two of Bruce’s kids even have musically involved spouses. “They’re all involved in the music business, which they sort of inherited from us, so it’s kind of fun,” Bruce says.

He speaks almost reverently about music and its ability to not just improve other areas of skill, but also to transcend all boundaries. “Everybody can hear a Beethoven sonata and they hear the same thing. It moves them regardless of language skills,” he says.

When it comes to the piano specifically, Bruce’s respect is evident. “The piano is just a fantastic musical invention and creation that’s able to be so expressive. The instrument itself is fairly complex, but to be able to play one is very easy,” he says, adding that “some instruments are not so easy, but any 18-month-old child can sit down and push a key, hear that and make a connection to ‘I made that happen,’ so there’s something really beautiful about that.”

Bruce clearly passed along his love for the piano to Jordan. “I grew up always working on pianos. That was almost a part of my chore list. Before I could go watch Ninja Turtles I had to put on a set of bridle straps in an upright piano. I kind of thought all kids had to do that,” Jordan laughs, adding, “I didn’t know it was weird I was in there putting pianos together but I liked it because I got to work with my dad.” Initially, Jordan didn’t expect to go full-time into the family business so quickly. He was about to take on the ownership of a restaurant when his father’s shoulder injury called him into running Bruce Piano for a year. Then, when his father recovered, Jordan says he knew he was where he belonged.

“I loved it so much I just stayed on. There was no way I was leaving after that,” he says. In addition to the day-to-day work, Jordan is constantly developing ideas for growing the business. Bruce Piano now has five employees and is still as busy as ever.

Jordan compares their work to auto care. “You always need an oil change and it’s the same thing with piano tuning,” he says. He explains that although the piano tuning business is unregulated, there is a governing non-profit organization dedicated to quality of the craft. This is the Piano Technicians Guild, of which Jordan and his father are both members.

Jordan has also participated in training opportunities to further his knowledge. He became only the second person to be a second-generation graduate of the Yamaha certification program, following in the footsteps of his father. He has also been trained at Steinway in New York after getting the opportunity to jump ahead on the potential five-year-long waiting list.

For Jordan, the inclusion of refurbishment in their list of services is invaluable. He says that not many technicians offer that option and he enjoys being able to put new life into the classics and often save a family heirloom. “It may be an old family piano that’s completely fallen apart and we bring it back to be like-new. I’ve delivered pianos where the whole family is there and people just start bawling because the piano is back.”

When it comes to Bruce Piano, family definitely strikes a chord. 

1 Comment

Renee Lappin Says:
March 16th, 2013 at 11:52 pm
I used to take guitar lessons from Gary when I was younger and he also always tuned our family piano. Now his son, Jordan is the ONLY one I will let touch our church pianos! Great service and excellent personnel.
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