Everything Johan Viljoen is, does and stands for can be summarised by three words: The Piano Master.
Looking beyond the name, however, lends depth and credibility to a brand that symbolises a singular commitment to and passion for pianos.
After all, being a piano tuner and restorer means more than just tightening a string here, applying a tuning fork there and presenting a bill. Johan’s expertise is based on an impressive body of knowledge and experience – from a mind for everything from mathematics to history and an exquisitely attuned ear to the array of tools he applies to get even the most out of set of keys in tune.
While his expertise has grown over the decades, strings are, in a manner of speaking, part of Johan’s DNA. His parents met as violin players, attracted to each other by their shared love of the instrument. As the years went by and the family grew, music became a second priority – until Johan, at the tender age of nine, discovered two violins gathering dust in a corner. None of his siblings were interested, but Johan was hooked, so much so that he started taking violin lessons – and dreaming about opening his own music shop.
While the idea of the shop fell by the wayside, Johan remained sold on the idea of a career in the piano and music industry. And so, in 1985, he did an intensive three-year course in piano tuning and restoring in the picturesque town of Worcester in the Western Cape.
Today, more than three decades later, he plays second fiddle to no-one when it comes to the tuning, restoring, moving, buying, and selling of pianos. From the somewhat astounding array of factors impacting sound quality (rats, humidity, temperature fluctuations, wear and tear, even frequent and hard playing) to the frequency with which various types of pianos should be tuned, he has the knowledge embedded in his mind, the expertise at the tips of his fingers and his abiding passion at the bottom of his heart.
Let it also be said that the Piano Master’s expertise is not limited to restoring sound quality. He is as finely attuned to his customers’ aesthetic needs as he is to their musical requirements. Because many customers want their pianos to fit in with their interior decorating colour schemes, Johan will arrange to have it custom-painted and decorated, whether in a bright shade of yellow or covered from top to bottom with flowers.
Johan Viljoen does all of this, and more, because ultimately, he explains, his job is not just tuning pianos, it is helping pianists to tell their musical tales.
Decades ago, the legendary American singer and jazz pianist Nat King Cole, described himself as “an interpreter of stories. When I perform it’s like sitting down at my piano and telling fairy tales”.
While the late great Mr Cole is no longer with us, the Piano Master is. For more than 35 years he has been enabling pianists to begin and to continue telling their musical tales. And his story has just begun.