I had the pleasure to attend an open house at the new Piano Technology Lab at the College of Music at Florida State University. The Lab is home to FSU's recently implemented Master of Arts in Piano Technology program. This program is the only one of its kind in the United States. There are trade programs leading to a certificate in Boston and at the University of Western Ontario. Through a partnership agreement, Western Ontario students are able to complete their training in the FSU program. Program director Anne Garee said they have received inquiries from several institutions regarding hiring the program's graduates, of which there are two so far.
Most of the clinical work in the program will be on the College's dozens of practice, classroom, and concert insturments. The first graduating class got to work on a 1927 Mason & Hamlin instrument that was part of a significant donation that helped to get the program off the ground. It will be returned to the donor and used in a Tallahassee performance venue. Ms. Garee said that the instrument represented a unique opportunity for the students because of its high quality. The piano had a warm and rich tone when I heard it played at the open house. Debussy and Feldman (for example) would sound wonderful on this instrument.
The Lab itself was fascinating--parts and tools everywhere and in order. There were various kinds of actions out on workbenches so visitors (and students, of course) could see how the many parts worked together. I asked Ms. Garee what role (if any) electronic technology plays in the process. She said they use computers mostly to generate charts and graphs for use in the diagnosis and measurement of problems with the action. These meaurements represent the biggest step in piano technology in over 100 years. But the real work remains in the hands and in the ear.