The Sioux Empire's Own "Piano Man"
by Phil McIlrath, KDLT News
May 09, 2012 8:07 PM
When you hear the moniker, "piano man" it's hard not to think of singer/pianist Billy Joel. But here in Sioux Falls, one man has dedicated his professional life to keeping those 88 keys on the keyboard moving and sounding perfect. It's his passion to preserve the voice of the piano that Phil McIlrath thinks makes Tim Coates, Someone You Should Know.
Inside this workshop, on 8th and Railroad Center in Sioux Falls, lie some of the most beautiful voices of the past.
"The older the better,"said Piano Technician, TimCoates. "But you don't want to get too old."
Like a skilled surgeon, Tim picks at hundreds of strings each day.
Mounds of keys beaten and banged-on for years lie in piles, tired legs hang on walls and body cavities lie empty..quietly waiting for their mighty voices to be heard once again, with the help of their curious craftsman, who oddly enough, didn't think this is where he would end up at all.
"I was always mechanically inclined. We had a piano at home that had some notes out of tune and it really bothered me, so I got out a socket wrench and got it in tune!
And so began Tim's decades long love affair with the Piano. He was always a tinkerer from bikes, to rebuilding car engines, but somehow this massive instrument struck a chord with him, that still resonates to this day.
"There are only two instruments I know that can do that: The (human) voice and the piano,"said Coates.
And while every piano has a unique voice, it's the stories on the inside that Tim likes the most.
"There were people that spent hours at these instruments and put their emotions and feelings into them. So, my goal is to find that character in that piano and at times augment it.
Changing, yet revitalizing that crisp classic, sound. But like most old school professions, time and a bottom line mean more than anything. Tim says more technicians nowadays are looking at pianos through the eyes of speed and efficiency, and not with attention to fine detail. A sour note, but Tim hopes he can re ignite his musical passion in someone special.
"All you can do is plant seeds...that's what happened with me,"said Coates.
Hoping to capture the interest of others in a mass of wood and iron, while preserving those vocal chords of a bygone age.
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