The Piano Tuner

While scouting the School of Music on the campus of the Edna Manley College of The Visual and Performing Arts, I came across a stranger. He was seated in front of the grand piano, on the stage in the Vera Moody Concert Hall. Beside him on a stool were tools, screws, bolts, nuts and other bits and ends. The piano lid raised, his hands moved across the hammers, tweaking, tuning, deftly working within the 9-foot Steinway grand piano with 12,000 moving parts. 

Something about it caught my eye, and I asked him if I could take some photos of him while he worked; he obliged. I sized him up, and carefully took a few shots. He was happy to see them afterward, and he introduced himself to me; Johnny O’Brien, a piano tuner. I noted that he had an accent, but I didn’t have the time to have a conversation with him. I said goodbye and made my way to the exit.

It wasn’t until much later that I realised he was far more than; he was a renowned piano tuner, restorer and a skilled jazz pianist from New Orleans. He first came to Jamaica in 1981 with his grandfather (who was Jamaican born) and fell in love with the island; after living here for over a decade, he has travelled here frequently for work. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again, because I would absolutely love to shoot some portraits of this very interesting man.

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