Someone You Should Know: Piano Technician Tinkers At State Capitol

Bismarck, N.D. - There's discord at the state capitol. But I don't mean political discord—no filibusters or fiery debates. I mean a much more musical kind of discord.

It's all thanks to Eric Nikiforoff. But there's nothing unpleasant about this experience for him. In fact, he's as happy as a kid in a toy store.

"There's roughly 12,000 parts in a grand piano," says Nikiforoff. "Sometimes I call it my big-boy Legos."

Eric spends all day, every day playing with these massive Lego kits. He tunes pianos in people's homes, on massive concert stages—even here at the State Capitol.

And after 28 years, he's just about seen it all. "We were called one time to remove a frog from a piano," he tells me. (The frog turned out just fine, by the way.)

So what else has Eric found inside a grand piano? "Cell phones. Lots and lots of bobby pins and pencils and paper clips and things like that." His list goes on. "Wine. Candle wax. You name it."

The majority of his time is spent between the notes, using his highly trained ear—and some technological tricks—to get the instruments back into shape.

But there's a nagging question. With all that dissonance, day in, and day out... how does he keep from going crazy?

"This doesn't bother me at all, because I know I'm putting it where it's supposed to be," he explains. "When I get to an instrument that's out of tune, I don't play it or anything. I just measure and start tuning."

And when the work is done, his reward is a beautiful sound from a beautiful instrument. A source of harmony, even in a place where discord can reign supreme.

Eric Nikiforoff is someone you should know.


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