Blind piano technician finds fun in work: Don Wigent: “It isn’t what I do; it’s what I am” | Feature Columnist

If there is a piano anchoring the dwelling area of a home about Greenville, it’s fairly very likely Don Wigent has had his hands on it.

A self-explained “character,” he’s as memorable for his piano tuning capabilities as his bass singing talent in barbershop quartets. He’s been servicing instruments in property and at East Carolina University for much more than a few a long time.

Wigent’s story began north of listed here.

“I grew up in Michigan. I went to the Michigan Condition School for the Blind,” Wigent mentioned. “I went there when I was 11. It’s a household college, so you keep there and go dwelling on weekends or each and every other weekend. Trip the bus dwelling or a thing like that.”

Wigent defined that “blind schools” throughout the region offer you specialised training for visually impaired men and women. “I guess that is a fancy phrase for ‘blind.’ I was born with glaucoma. I could see a tiny tiny bit … but not a lot … colours.”

The colleges offered a good deal of facilities and trade instruction for the visually impaired not out there in public colleges. “So they had a genuine band, and stores … steel shops, wooden shops … piano tuning store.” He was in the seventh grade when he “wedged his way” into the piano tuning shop.

“When I was escalating up, my dad experienced me performing anything. If he was putting on a roof, I was placing on a roof. So I had rather excellent working arms. But the piano shop, I just fell into the right area of interest. I had extra entertaining there than something you could visualize. That to start with calendar year for Christmas I obtained $20 well worth of piano tuning instruments. That was fun. And it’s been enjoyment at any time considering the fact that. I’m 77 so I have been performing on pianos for just about 65 years.”

He laughs and adds, “You know, I’m gonna get really excellent a single day.”

Soon after the initial two several years of his piano tuning university, he started tuning pianos for people and making a tiny dollars. “Of system I was 15 many years aged, and what would they give a 15 12 months old blind child to do the job on?” he mentioned. “Junk. But I guess I fooled them mainly because I created it function and they paid me.”

He remembers when his spouse and he were engaged and she worked at Chrysler in Detroit as a secretary. “They mentioned to her, ‘You’re obtaining married and I realize your fiancé does not see too perfectly?’ She explained, ‘No, he’s blind. He doesn’t see at all.’ They explained ‘Really? Does he drive significantly?’” He laughs. “I like the ‘much’ aspect.”

When he was tuning pianos in Detroit public educational institutions, a girl at the school he was working at questioned him, “When you get by means of, the place do they get you?”

“I claimed, who is ‘they?’ They never appear get me like I’m some sort of hospital scenario.”

“Then she claimed, ‘Where do you keep?’ I said, ‘I dwell in my house with my household.’ She mentioned, ‘Oh you’re married? How great of her.’”

I reported, “She is great, but I’m hoping it wasn’t a sympathy scenario.”

When the lady added, “And you have young children?” he replied, “Yeah, I contracted it out.”

He admits that he was “yanking her chain” a minor, but describes that people today seriously have a fear of blindness. “It’s a scary point. It isn’t so terrible for me, since I grew up with it.”

He interviewed for a situation at Eu in 1978 simply because he wanted a position wherever he didn’t have to get 3 hrs of buses every single working day for function. “Detroit was a great town. We had cost-free buses for blind men and women. I bought all around. I had about 100 schools to tune piano in. Buses will get you there, but it will take time. We desired to get somewhere that was a minor more compact. We got to Eu and most of my pianos ended up in one setting up and the other two ended up near by. It was a wonderful factor and I stayed there for about 34 decades.”

When he interviewed for position, he was a single of 25 applicants. They had been marketing for a piano teacher at the very same time, and there ended up 200 applications. “So who’s more difficult to change?” he questioned. “It’s a talent not a lot of people have.”

Rudy Alexander was working in Mendenhall University student Center through Wigent’s tenure, scheduling performers. “I made use of to get the job done with him all the time,” Wigent claimed. “All types of artists arrived by way of in this article. If they performed the keyboard, or piano, I had to tune it for them. Getting a piano technician is not just tuning. You have to regulate and make stuff operate and mend all sorts of stuff that can go incorrect. So you have obtained to be an ingenious mechanic and there is a whole lot to discover and to keep discovering all sorts of methods of the trade as you go.”

Wigent claims it is a misconception that piano specialists should have ideal pitch. “As a make any difference of fact, there are very several people today out there who have really what you may well simply call ideal pitch,” he explained. “There are some who have relative pitch … they can notify you generally what be aware anyone is participating in. We discover to review just one pitch with another. I start with a tuning fork, and it performs A, 440 vibrations for every second. And from that I can play the interval notes close to it and review, and I wind up tuning all 88 notes of the piano by starting off with a tuning fork. You’re finding out to assess 1 tone with one more. It’s a ability you study. It isn’t some thing you pull out of your hat.”

How generally does a piano have to have to be tuned? After a calendar year is usually fantastic, Wigent reported. “If you are a concert pianist or a critical pianist you could want to do it 2 times or perhaps even 3 occasions a year. But for the most portion, they remain very well … pianos are not that fragile. It is humidity that goes up and down that causes them to expand and contract a minor little bit and go out of tune. When you go from Virginia to North Carolina, I feel the humidity cranks up about 25 points. In a live performance situation like Ecu, I checked that piano two or three times a 7 days. They had five concert grands and all varieties of other ones in different studios and functionality parts.”

Know-how has impacted the marketplace some. “Science and measurements have gotten actually good in excess of the decades,” Wigent claimed. “Glues and some components have gotten greater. Electronic keyboards are getting actually fantastic. They seem whiz-bang superior than they applied to.”

But in his impression, they do not take the area of a superior acoustic piano and do not previous as extended. “Acoustic pianos are superior for 100 many years if they are even reasonably taken care of.”

Wigent plays the piano “enough to have fun” and also commenced participating in the accordion when he was 8 or 10 several years previous. “That’s what it is all about. If it wasn’t enjoyable, why would any individual do it?”

One more hobby Wigent enjoys for the enjoyment of it is singing barbershop quartet model.

“I generally favored listening to barbershop in Detroit, increasing up there, but I somehow by no means connected up with the appropriate groups. When I still left there and came to Greenville, I met someone in Kroger’s, and we got to conversing, like what is your hobby, and I mentioned I normally wished to sing in a barbershop quartet. He picked me up the subsequent Monday evening and I have been singing in it for 40 yrs.”

For the previous handful of decades the neighborhood barbershop refrain has been termed the Carolina Chord Connection, a chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, led by Stephen Brand. “They applied to be termed ‘The Pamlico Sound,’” Wigent mentioned, “which I consider was a really rather excellent identify. Barbershop is four aspect harmony. Bass, baritone, lead, tenor.”

He sings the words, obtaining incrementally better with each and every just one. “When you set 4 sections jointly, they make chords. So barbershoppers … we just like to sing, and it is not so essential if anyone’s listening mainly because we have way too substantially entertaining just singing.”

Wigent describes barbershoppers as clever, fun-loving individuals. “They like all sorts of humorous names for their quartets. I’m at the moment singing in a quartet known as ‘Out of Sight, Out of Thoughts.’ I used to sing in a single named ‘The Regular Suspects.’ We obtained that name from ‘Casablanca.’ And there was ‘Meta4.’ The funniest a single was ‘University Pest Command.’ They are not usually retiring souls that really don’t like individuals. They are outgoing individuals. Their plan of a superior time is pizza and beer and singing till a single in the early morning.”

Blindness, Wigent explains, is generally inconvenient. “It doesn’t demolish your life. My existence is in all probability scaled-down than some other people today who can see. It doesn’t imply I don’t have a person. I’ve acquired to enjoy with the deck I’m presented. I can not say, ‘I do not have every little thing, so I’m heading to give up.’ You do what you can. Appropriate?”

Wigent is rapid to credit his wife, Carol, for her help through the several years. His confront beams with pleasure at the point out of their three sons, all who gained degrees from Ecu and even now reside locally.

His philosophy is straightforward: “The doers have all the entertaining,” Wigent states.

And he’s still doing it. “I’m doing it for the grandkids of folks I used to tune for. Pianos will go from this family members to the young children, to their young children.”

“I fell into a definitely excellent factor and it’s nonetheless plenty of enjoyment. I get pleasure from the function and I delight in the individuals. You satisfy all kinds of figures … of system I are a person too.”

Don Wigent invitations individuals feeling a very little out of tune to call him for piano servicing at 830-0505 or on his mobile at 814-5194 (he has a textual content concept reader), adding, “Call me at any time, just don’t phone me late for supper.”