Master Piano Technician
Steve Oliver is a 4th generation piano tuner and master piano technician with 35 yrs. experience. Mr. Oliver is qualified in all areas of acoustic piano repair, specializing in Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Baldwin, and Yamaha. All other makes are also welcome.
His specialties include: piano tuning, all action repairs, hammer and component replacement, string and key replacement, touch regulations, touch weight analysis, complete rebuilding, piano refinishing, custom voicing and tone adjustment, used pianos sales and piano moving. Oliver services the tri-state area in Westchester, Fairfield, Rockland, Putman, Dutchess and Orange Counties, Bergen County in New Jersey. Now servicing some areas of Pennsylvania, Milford, Shohola, Sussex County NJ.
Along with his son, Nicholas, who has been apprenticing since the age of 15, Steve Oliver and the Oliver family have an impressive lineage in the piano industry.
The Oliver Family History
The art of piano rebuilding has been handed down over 5 generations. The Oliver family (originally the Oliva Family from Bari, Italy) have been in the piano industry since its beginnings.
The patriarch, Guiseppi Oliva, arrived in New York City in 1896 and immediately began working for the O.W, Wuertz Piano company as a master cabinet maker. Guissepie was quickly promoted as head foreman, overseeing the cabinet and belly dept. (this is where the frame, sound board and pin block and bridges are crafted, assembled and adjusted). After Guiseppe’s many requests, Mr. Wuertz agreed to take on his son Michael to learn piano tuning, (an elite suit and tie job in the early sweat shop days). Michael started out chip tuning the process of tightening the strings before the dampers and action components could be installed, that paid 5 cents per piano. Today the same job pays about $40.00. He later became the company’s top piano tuner.
In 1911 the experience and knowledge of fine wood working, soundboards, pin blocks, cabinets and finishing along with Michael’s experience in piano tuning and piano regulation proved to be a perfect combination! They opened Michael & Sons Piano Company, a piano sales and restoration factory in Bronx, New York.
A legacy was born. Later on, Michael’s son’s Al and Brothers John, George and Tony (third generation) helped to make the Michael & Sons Piano Company grow until they became one of the largest piano sales dealers and piano restoration specialists in the country.
After the war years the economy was suffering and a lot of large old uprights were being discarded. Much like today, many of the movers were told to dispose of these old pianos and bring them to the landfills. Often times they were missing pieces and needed the right expert attention to make them play. Steve’s father had a brainstorm “why not repair them and install mirrors over the front pieces that are missing?”
Many of the pianos were missing the fall board (a two piece hinged cover that folded down over the keys). Since it was much easier to make the fall board a 1 piece system (normally a 2 piece hinged) that went in the front of the keys, this turned out to be a really great idea. The people behind the player could see another view of what the piano player’s hands were doing. This was done by using much less costly plywood and mounting pieces of mirror on the fall board ( and often the front face cover), if the tops were missing mirror pieces would be installed there as well. There was no need to strip or re-finish old cracked or damaged pieces, and the glass was much cheaper. Easier to fabricate and cut than having wood pieces custom made and coated with a finish. The idea REALLY CAUGHT ON. Al and his brothers made a deal with the local movers to call them first before discarding the pianos. Steve remembers the piano store/factory with racks of hundreds of mirrors waiting to be installed, he was about 6 years old.
THE MIRROR PIANO WAS BORN, so even then Steve’s family was up-cycling pianos before anyone understood the term. We have been up-cycling pianos ever since. Over the years, Steve said “I can’t tell you how many old pianos we have saved, thousands I’m sure not to mention all of the saved trees.” Even though the mirror piano is no longer popular we still restore all types of pianos returning them to their original condition of strength and quality that lasts for years and years”. We want to save pianos and stop this trend of disposable goods.
I have many clients that my grandfather sold pianos to, new, used, and restored pianos. They have withstood the test of time. “I am now servicing the grandchildren to whom these pianos have been passed down”. In my opinion the unique quality of the earlier American and German pianos, a time when quality and pride meant something, have never been surpassed by anyone. Many of them have lasted between 70 – 100 years before needing re-building or restoration and will last that same time period or longer after being re-done. I haven’t seen a less expensive copy of our American built pianos (we all know who I am referring to) last anywhere near as long. The problem is inferior quality woods and those shiny plastic finishes cannot be re-done a second time, those pianos will for sure wind up in a landfill much sooner than our older built treasures
Think twice before letting someone talk you into getting rid of yours, have a true expert check it out first, I hear many sad stories of bad advice being given. Call me! I can check yours and I can give you many references
By re-building older American pianos (which by the way is not more expensive than buying a new Chinese piano) the result is that many tress are being saved and unique heirloom instruments that were made with pride, quality and rare woods will live to see many more years Close to 100, bringing the joy of music and culture to many. The valuable and rare antique woods, solid brass hardware, and veneers (many no longer available at any price) do not wind up in a landfill. It seems a shame to me to think that pianos are becoming a part of this disposable society we are living in, my question is how does this disposable way of thinking benefit our rain forests or our planet?
The Oliver piano family had provided restored used pianos to famous department stores such as Macy’s and Wanamaker’s.
Steve Oliver’s family has been involved in acoustic piano design, development, manufacturing and restoration for over 100 years. They have trained and worked with some of the finest piano artisans and technicians in the country many of whom trained and worked at the Steinway factory.
Our client list includes performers from the Metropolitan Opera, concert pianists, composers, actors, jazz and rock musicians. References can be supplied upon request.
True experts are hard to find, feel free to call me, I will always have time for you.
Steve Oliver 914-403-4445