People working towards becoming professional pianists need to put in a lot of hours of practice.
There is someone at the University of Colorado Boulder who might be putting in more hours than anyone studying piano there. And he is not trying to become a professional player.
“It shuts the monkey house up here off,” said Ted Mulcahey, while pointing to his head. “It’s just the piano and me.”
Mulcahey is one of two piano techs at CU Boulder, and he is responsible for tuning and repairing all of the university’s 130 pianos.
“You can always find notes that need a teeny tiny bit of improvement,” Mulcahey said. “You get to know the pianos really well, which is nice.”
Mulcahey tunes two pianos in the music school’s concert hall nearly every day of the year. The others do not get tuned as often, but he touches all of 130 pianos at least twice a year.
“A lot of very, very talented musicians, students, and faculty are here,” Mulcahey said. “They’re all really dedicated and amazing players. We do everything we can to keep everyone happy.”
Sarah Rushing, who is getting her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano at CU-Boulder, said she is happy the pianos at the school are in such good shape.
“I know he’s here at like 5 every morning,” Rushing said. “I look at the schedule and I see Ted’s got it signed out at like 4 in the morning.”
She said playing an out-of-tune piano is unbearable.
“I never played piano underneath the sea, but I imagine if there were pianos at the bottom of the ocean, that’s what it would sound like,” Rushing said.
Mulcahey knows the importance of a tuned piano. He was a piano performance major in college.
“Being able to play a little bit helps a lot with knowing what the piano is supposed to sound like,” Mulcahey said.
He said he is a little rusty at the instrument himself, but he does have a nice piano at home that he doesn’t play as much as he would like.
“It’s like when the mechanic’s car is the worst on the block... when you’ve been tuning all day you don’t want to go home and tune,” Mulcahey said.