A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Meet the Mason Nation: Katrina Sapp

By Jamie Rogers on January 28, 2016

Job: Piano Technician, School of Music

The two weeks before classes begin are crunch time for Katrina Sapp, the woman who helps keep Mason’s School of Music in tune. As the school’s first and only full-time piano technician, Sapp is responsible for keeping the school’s 65 plus Steinway & Sons pianos tuned and in tip-top condition for the hundreds of music students and faculty who use them year-round.

Katrina SappPhoto by Evan Cantwell

Katrina Sapp
Photo by Evan Cantwell

Plenty of Playtime: All Mason music students—from vocalists to violinists—must take at least two years of keyboard studies. “These pianos are getting played 10 hours a day. I’ve come in [at] 11 o’clock at night, and all of the [practice] rooms are full.”

Cool Tunes: It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 1/2 hours to tune one piano. During the semester, each grand piano will be tuned at least once a month. The pianos in the choral room and the recital hall of the de Laski Performing Arts Building can be tuned as often as three times a week during recital season. “There are 88 notes on a piano and 200 plus strings. There are a lot of working parts to get one note to produce a pleasing sound.”

I’m All Ears: To be successful at piano tuning, one must develop a well-trained “ear” and then protect it. “My ears are my livelihood. I’m the one going to concerts with earplugs. When a fire engine goes by, I’m plugging my ears.”

Paging “Dr.” Sapp: As a full-time tech, Sapp can address problems quickly and usually fix them the same day. One student told Sapp she was grateful the school not only had these amazing Steinways but its very own “piano doctor.” “Pianists can’t practice in their dorm rooms. The last thing I want them to worry about is the piano, especially the day of their recital.”

Lost and Found: Part of Sapp’s job includes extracting random items that have fallen inside the cavity of the piano. A professional must remove the objects, as an untrained hand could damage the instrument. Pens and pencils are the most often dropped items, but Sapp has also retrieved Mason IDs and loose change. “One day I might have enough [coins] to buy some chips.”

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