You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can't Tune a Fish
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
When you think of Aretha Franklin, you probably think of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Natural Woman, or many other classic songs that made her the Queen of Soul. Not only was her voice mesmerizing, but the music that accompanied it allows many of us to recognize her songs before we even hear her voice.
We are fortunate to have as part of our Munds Park community, a person that helped keep the Queen of Soul and many others on key. Kappé Rousseau, a new full-time Mundsie and piano tuner extraordinaire, is here to enjoy all that is wonderful about Munds Park, bringing with her a contagious creative energy and a thirst for outdoor life.
Kappé Rousseau is starting over right here in the Park, and she couldn’t be more excited. She left Oakland, California, to live in our small town and get back the four seasons that she enjoyed at an earlier time in her life. Kappé is also an avid backpacker and spends most of her time outdoors. She couldn’t have picked a better town to live in.
Kappé, originally from Michigan, grew up in a loving home filled to the brim with 9 siblings. To keep all the little hands and minds busy, the children in the Rousseau home were expected to learn something, anything, at the age of five. So, when it was Kappé’s turn, her Mother asked her little girl what it was she wanted to learn. She said the piano. Soon an upright piano was delivered to their home.
Curious, Kappé explored her new piano and quickly learned that when she opened up the piano’s lid, she could see the internal mechanics, and when she played, she could see them move to make sound. Kappé was absolutely fascinated and would play for hours, watching the piano work with each stroke of the key. It wasn’t long before Kappé was sneaking into her Dad’s workshop to get tools to tweak the piano. Something she was sure her parents wouldn’t allow, but she just couldn’t help herself. After time, her curiosity paid off because there wasn’t enough money for a piano tuner, so she learned to tune it herself.
Kappé explained that she loves mechanical things. She loves to fix things and sleuth through problems. She will sit and think, and then she will ‘see’ a solution. “I see a lot of what other people don’t see, and that’s why I love to tune pianos because the piano is the perfect blend of art and science which means it’s movable. It is not fixed, and there are so many things you can adapt and customize for the player. When a piano technician understands this and knows how to problem solve, listen, and feel, this merger of art and science makes the high-end player love your work”.
You don’t meet piano tuners every day, so we wondered how you become a piano technician. Kappé explained that a little over 22 years ago, after 3 previous careers, she decided to get back to what she loved, working with and tuning pianos. She says that her desire and pure luck landed her a remarkable career working with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Prince, and Neil Young.
Her luck started when she moved her old 1914 Baby Grand piano from Michigan to California. Once it got to California, she needed a tuner, and she found a family of tuners through the Yellow Pages (kids, that’s Google in the olden days). There were five brothers, so she gravitated to them, and as luck would have it, they were the dynasty of all dynasties of piano technicians—The Callahan Piano Service. This was her first connection to learning her trade.
Kappé then joined the Piano Technicians Guild to be legit and bonified.
“I got in with the Guild, and I inhaled every piece of information I could find from anyone who would teach it to me. Back then, the only way to learn piano tuning or anything related to pianos was through the old-world apprentice style. There were no schools to learn this trade, except for one in Boston, and schools are not the same as going into someone’s shop and saying, “Oh, I’ll sweep your floor for a few pearls of wisdom.” It’s an old-world craft that could only be taught by the masters, and Kappé had amazing mentors who all knew and shared knowledge with one another. “It was a fountain of knowledge,” Kappé said. I was fortunate to know and learn from these incredible mentors.
Once in the circle of piano tuners, you were part of a tribe. A historical tribe that learned from one another. Built tools for one another, and they did this with the intent of moving their craft forward, and Kappé is a part of this old-world family of technicians.
Kappé, a well-trained, seasoned technician, spent most of her career working large performance venues in the Bay Area. She was hired by artists not only to tune pianos before events, she was hired to sit and wait. Wait for a string to pop or some other musical calamity during live performances that would need her quick attention. She had to be at the top of her game, and she loved being in the hot seat. Not every performance included an urgent response, but when it did, she would have 10 minutes to figure out and fix the problem, tune and get the piano up and playing. Kappé said, “It’s just delicious to work at that level because the electricity is flowing, you let your ego go, and you become one with it. You move with it because you are a part of it. You get to fly. It’s very exciting.”
Remember the old, but wonderful, Baby Grand piano Kappé moved from Michigan to California? Well, it’s here with her in Munds Park, and she’s going to rebuild it. Yes, Kappé can rebuild pianos too. She says it’s very difficult, and very few women can fully rebuild a piano. She knows she was one of three women who can do this. However, she doesn’t think any of the others are doing it anymore.
Kappé is a fascinating woman, filled with unique and positive energy that just pours out of her. She has wonderful and creative ideas for Munds Park. She not only wants to keep your pianos in tune, but she plans on connecting with other musicians in the Park and surrounding areas to have music parties. She also wants to bring something new to the area, Circle Singing, which sounds absolutely fascinating. More just to the right of this article.
If you want to contact Kappé, you can reach her at Kappepiano@gmail.com.
Welcome to the Park Kappé! We’re glad you are part of our tribe!
Join Kappé for Circle Singing
In a Circle, there are no sides – all are one and all is connected. In a Circle, every voice counts and is blended into sweet harmonies with music from around the world. This is an improved way of creating music, unlike anything you have ever experienced before.
Circle Singing is all-inclusive. You don’t need to know how to sing to participate. If you can sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and are open to doing something different, then this is for you.
Circle singing is discovering your vocal expression through improvisation. It is about being in a safe and supportive environment where you can explore your creative potential. Circle singing plays with movement, where your body can also become ´musical´or an extension of your own voice.
If you are interested in future circle singing events, contact Kappé at 510-384-8164.