Seeking Expert Piano Tuner

In this piece of short creative nonfiction, the author’s out-of-tune piano brings up everything from the elephants’ ivory to her current family dynamics.

by | Feb 20, 2017

Oil painting of purple couch in library
The Ale & Quail, a watercolor by Contributing Artist Annika Connor.
Seeking expert piano tuner, must have a good ear – as well as experience with antiques – to tune and restore a beautiful walnut baby grand with original brass pedals, ivory keys, and a chipped ivory Steinway & Sons insignia just above the keyboard (this bothers me every time I look at it, being an unnecessary blemish of age) that cannot be replaced because I can’t – nor would I want to – purchase new ivory, since the elephants are more important (I see them swaying to the melodic notes that rise from the piano even when they are standing in the savanna or a dusty zoo, remembering everything they never forget) plus, the original bench, which matches the rest of the piano, has a wobbly left leg and needs re-staining, both inside and out, although I’d have to remove my old sheet music, now dated favorites by Billy Joel, Elton John, John Lennon, and even a frayed songbook from Free To Be You and Me – free to be me, or at least free to be what once was me, but I need help remembering because now the piano sounds off key and wrong in every way, action stiff and slow to respond (tuner must be willing to help move the books that are on top of the piano – I ran out of room on my shelves and have piled them in stacks of ten, un-alphabetized, but by category of fiction, memoir, short story, poems, essays, and the favorite children’s books I once read to my girls – heaps of them, some of which I’ve read recently and others that I’ll get to as soon as I can, along with my notated volumes of classical music – the Mozart Sonatas, Bach Inventions, Chopin Waltzes and Mazurkas, the Complete Works of Scarlatti, Thirty-Two Sonatinas and Rondos for the Piano, Debussy’s First and Second Arabesques), and also there’s a mess of photos, including ones of my grandmother (who gave me the piano as a high school graduation present), and her daughter (my mother) on the day she married my father (who never played a musical instrument, other than the washboard, but loved to listen to classical piano), next to the picture of my daughter and new son-in-law, who every time he visits with my grown-up baby girl, plays my piano better than I ever have or ever will (he gently mentions the flatness of the lower registers), and so I’m seeking your expertise to make it sound as beautiful as it once did so that he will continue to bring her home.
“Seeking Expert Piano Tuner” first appeared in Issue 7 of Cheat River Review.
Guest Writer Laurie Ember’s essays and creative nonfiction have appeared in Cheat River Review, Huffington Post,, and She lives and writes in Los Angeles, CA, was raised on Long Island, NY, and spends as much time as she can in Fairfield, CT. The author started piano lessons at age five, continued through her sophomore year in college, played intermittently since then, and hopes to play again as soon as she gets the piano tuned. Follow Laurie on Twitter @l_ember, or visit her website
Contributing Artist Annika Connor is a Contemporary Romantic painter and a Young Fellow of the Frick Collection. Her work depicts a fascination with beauty and decadence. See more of her paintings at and find her on


  1. Avatar

    Beautiful writing. Get that wonderful piano tuned and begin playing again ASAP. It’s the best thing you will ever do for yourself.

  2. Nancy M. Williams, Founding Editor

    Couldn’t agree more, on both counts! Thank you, Laurie, for contributing this beautiful piece to Grand Piano Passion.


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