Schedule an Appointment

(800) 738-8633 (800) RE-TUNED

The Largest Piano Tuning and Service Organization in the Western United States Exceeding Your Expectations Since 1976

  • An association of piano technicians, working under the guidance of Shawn Skylark, a highly acclaimed concert tuner with over 36 years of experience
  • The only piano service to offer a money-back, 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Whatever type of piano you have, whatever level of service you require, we have the right technician for you!
  •  
  • 1a
  • 2a
  • 3a
  •  
  • 1a
  • 2a
  • 3a
  •  
  • 1a
  • 2a
  • 3a
  •  
  • 1a
  • 2a
  • 3a

Shawn Skylark’s Bio

I was born in 1953 and raised on Long Island, New York. My first piano was the little spinet in our living room that had the inscription: "Made especially for Phyllis' 10th Birthday." Phyllis was my mother, and did not remember much from her few years of lessons, but from time to time she would sit at the piano and play the first few measure of classical pieces she had once known. I listened, and knew that I would play someday.

My lessons started at the age of 8, but I only made it through two years before giving it up, like so many children. This is one reason why, when I tune for families with children taking lessons, I strive to help the family learn from my own experience. Every child is different. Some do well with standard teaching methods, but others need special attention. Children who more naturally learn "by ear" are often very frustrated by traditional music lessons, and need an approach that allows them to use their natural tendency to play using chords, and sound, and finger patterns. I was one of those.

So I kept playing, on my own. I learned chords and started playing popular songs, and eventually started my first band when I was 13, with my friend Bruce, a guitar player. The piano and organ were a big part of popular music sounds, as they remain today. We played for school dances, entertained at the Beach Clubs in the summer, and it was music that got me through those always difficult teenage years.

My family moved to Los Angeles in 1969, and I finished high school there. I went to college at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where my career as a piano tuner began. While trying to rent a piano from the only tuner in the area, I got to know him through our numerous conversations. He used to buy old uprights and then fix them either to rent or sell. I could see that he was swamped with work, and I needed a part-time job. Besides, I thought I had a pretty good ear, and reasoned that after a few months I could learn enough to tune a few pianos "on the side."

We struck up an old fashioned apprenticeship. I would work at his shop for no pay, until I was able to do work that helped produce income. After that he would pay me as he was able to. I loved working in his shop and looked forward to every day. It wasn't long before I realized that acquiring the many skills of a piano tuner would take years, not months, and I had a decision to make. I chose to leave college after two years to continue piano work full time. Looking back, it was the best decision I ever made!

My mentor’s name was Jim Geiger, a technician who has gone on to national recognition. He taught me the basics of tuning, regulation and rebuilding, and introduced me to the Piano Technicians Guild, as he was an active member. In 1974 I was examined by the members of the Dayton Ohio Chapter, and passed at the highest level, which was then called "Craftsman." (That level is now known as "Registered Piano Technician.") I was on my way.

I decided to move back to California, but not Los Angeles. I had always been drawn to Northern California, and the San Francisco area, and so in the fall of 1974, at age 21, I drove into town in my gold Volkswagen squareback station wagon, with my new puppy Cody in the back seat, seeking fame and fortune as a piano tuner. I slept in my car, parked at Ocean Beach at night, and made calls to local tuners during the day, looking for work.

Now, the problem was, piano tuning is almost always a solo operation. Everyone was very polite and offered good advice, but no one needed help. However, I was continually told to call a tuner named Sheldon Smith. He was apparently a local legend, the most highly regarded tuner in the area, and had an extensive rebuilding operation. Perhaps he needed help...

Life seems to have a way of giving you what you need when you really need it. Sheldon was the most sought-after Steinway technician and rebuilder in the area, and he had two employees working in his shop full time. A week before I arrived, one of them had given notice. He was frantic to find help, because all the other applicants had no experience, and he needed someone who at least came in with basic skills. I was just lucky enough to be the right person at the right time, and I was hired on the spot!

I worked for him for two years in an "advanced apprenticeship." Under Sheldon's guidance, and with the help of his other apprentice I learned to rebuild Steinway grands. I was involved in every aspect of the jobs, from soundboard preparation and bridge repairs, to restringing, and tuning. I learned to install new action parts, replace hammers, and began learning the fine art of concert regulation and voicing.

Sheldon tuned for the San Francisco Symphony for many years, and from time to time I would go along with him on jobs to watch him work. He was a great teacher, a great tuner, a great technician, and a real artist. He died in 1999. We had not stayed in regular contact after I went out on my own, but we remained good friends.

So I "hung out my shingle" in 1976, and Skylark Piano Service began. Looking back to those early days, I like to think that I left every piano better than I found it. Piano tuning takes years, even decades to perfect, and most of us regularly look back and see how much we have continued to learn and improve, year after year.

It is always useful for a tuner to be associated with a store, as a source of new clients, and my first store was Cline Piano Company, on Mission Street in San Francisco. I worked in the store preparing pianos for sale, and reconditioning the old instruments taken in trade. I enjoyed tuning the new pianos for my new clients, and actually still service a few of those pianos to this day. The confidence and loyalty of old customers is a gift that I strive never to take for granted.

I remained active in the Piano Technicians Guild, and in the early 1980's served as an officer with the San Francisco Chapter. I had learned a lot from my association with the Guild, and felt like it was appropriate to give some time back, running meetings, organizing technical presentations, and working with the committee to host the national convention when it came to our city. I also helped set up the early stages of the improved and standardized National Guild Examination procedures.

During these years I was often invited to make technical presentations to other local chapters. I taught classes in various subjects, and was the youngest instructor ever invited to teach a class at the State level.

I also worked for the University of California at Berkeley music department during those years, tuning the pianos in the classrooms and in the practice rooms, or "dungeons" as the students referred to them! I was grateful for the opportunity, and learned a lot from the experience, but I much preferred the one-on-one relationship of working with clients.

While I was doing this, the owners of Cline Piano Company had opened the Northern California locations for a large and successful chain of piano stores known as Colton Piano and Organ. This was a big step up from the small and manageable shops they had previously operated, and they needed a service department to handle the wide range of clients and pianos sold throughout the Bay Area. We worked out an arrangement whereby I would run my business as an independent service company. Once they sold a piano it would be my job to make sure that the piano was properly tuned and serviced in the home, and that the customer was happy. I put a crew together of independent technicians, hired Claudia Evers to run the office, and a major new chapter in my career had begun!

Every piano, every client, and every problem has provided an opportunity to improve my business and my skills. The chain of stores expanded into the Sacramento area, and we continued to grow in our efforts to serve all the new clients. Since those early days the number of pianos we have serviced has numbered almost 50,000, and that does not include repeat calls and clients whom we service on a regular basis. We must be doing SOMETHING right!

In 1997 I was invited by the United States technical representative to The Bosendorfer Piano Company to travel to Vienna to work for six weeks at the Bosendorfer Piano factory. Bosendorfer's are universally regarded as one of the worlds great instruments. They represent the pinnacle of achievement for the "hand-built" piano.

This was an extraordinary opportunity that I could not turn down. My wife, Alex, and I rented a flat in Vienna, and I went to work. I arrived every day at 6 AM, along with all the regular employees, and was given my own "prep" room, where I did the final stages of tuning, voicing, and regulation on the new pianos, before they were crated and shipped all over the world. I worked under the close supervision of a master technician, and it was here that my skills, especially the art of voicing, were truly refined.

Throughout the years, through our efforts on behalf of stores and their customers, we have established good relationships with many of the worlds top manufacturers, and continue to maintain these relationships. Our clients often refer us to friends and family, and we now tune for some of the best musicians and teachers in the area. We tune for churches, schools, theaters, restaurants, hotels, country clubs, and recording studios. We help clients with instruments costing a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands!

If there is only one reason for our success, it is rooted in the commitment to treat each piano and each client as if they were family: With honesty, skill, and integrity.

During all these years as a piano tuner, I have not stopped working to develop as a musician as well. After each tuning I spend a few minutes playing, not only as a technician, to evaluate the tuning and voicing, but simply as a musician, enjoying the instrument. I worked for many years at night and on the weekends with an "Oldies" rock and roll band, playing all the classic songs form the 1960's. Over the years my own piano style has emerged, and I continue to work as a singer/songwriter and composer.

My solo piano music is romantic and expressive, and I have worked on some pieces for over twenty years! I had promised myself that I would record them "someday," and am proud to say that in 2007 I released my first collection of original piano music. It is titled: Still Life - 10 Pieces For Solo Piano. You can go to my website at shawnskylark.com and listen to samples of my music.

Being a pianist and a piano technician has made my life richer in more ways than I could express, and this is why I am so committed to helping others find the music in their lives through this incredible instrument, the piano.

We Specialize in:
  • Bosendorfer
  • Steinway
  • Petrof
  • Schimmel
  • Yamaha