Steinway Piano Rebuilder & Voicing Specialist
My name is Boaz Kirschenbaum. I have been custom-rebuilding pianos since 2002. As a Licensed Precision Touch Design Installer, my primary focus is to develop vintage piano tone paired with a very even, balanced, and consistent action. I call this “piano hot-rodding”.
I live and work year-round on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, in the town of West Tisbury. The area is home to many farms, as well as very talented craftsmen – shipwrights, carpenters, cabinetmakers, luthiers, machinists, and mechanics. There is also a vibrant and diverse music scene. Believe it or not, we have more than a few high-quality music venues and concert halls. I am able to work as a concert technician seasonally, and I take care of two Steinway Model Ds in two wonderful venues.
Nearly all of my work is offered directly to the piano trade. I rebuild pianos and actions from Boston, New York City, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, and further afield. I also rebuild piano actions for universities and university technicians.
About ten years ago, I worked at Steinway & Sons at the famed Steinway Hall on West 57th Street in New York City. I was employed full-time as a tuner-technician & voicer in both the retail and concert departments, specializing in restored vintage Steinways. My mentors included renowned piano technicians Ron Coners, Aleks Markovich, Eric Schandall, and Kent Webb. After my tenure in New York, I worked for Steinway overseas for two years in New South Wales, Australia. I received further training at the Steinway Hamburg factory during that time. I started my private practice after I left Steinway in 2006.
Life on an Island
My workshop-atelier is adjacent to the 200-acre historic Hoft Farm and Blackwater Pond, on Lamberts Cove Road. Although the shop is small, it is well-equipped with state-of-the-art piano rebuilding tools and equipment. We also have a few choice pieces of vintage machinery, such as our Hammond G4 Trim-O-Saw pictured at the top of the page.
I chose the name “Cherry Tree Piano” for a couple of reasons. My last name translates from the German as “cherry tree”, so it is a direct way of putting my own name on my work. Also, I wanted to have a connection to the past by having a simple, old-fashioned name. It just seems to have a straightforward ring to it, like many of the farm names on the island.
Musical Aesthetic & My Life as a Musician
My taste in piano tone is influenced by my taste as a musician. My “signature sound” is really the classic New York Steinway sound from the past, especially the 1940s and 1950s.
As a guitarist I have always been on my own “tone quest” for over twenty years. Almost fifteen years ago I thought I should learn a skilled trade that would involve helping other musicians find their own tone. I wanted to mix together my interests in instrument-making & repair, audio engineering & acoustics, woodworking & metalworking, and most of all, preserving & restoring vintage things. Piano rebuilding combines all of these.
I am sometimes asked, “what does being an electric guitar player have to do with piano tone?”
I answer….it’s all from the same place. I play some piano, yes, but for me music-making is about collaboration. I can best collaborate with other musicians as a guitarist and bass player. I collaborate with sound engineers & piano technicians helping them make pianos sound beautiful and play well.
I’ve been a semi-professional electric guitar-player for a long time, over 25 years. I studied musicology and performance at the McGill University Conservatory of Music in Montreal. I began playing guitar at age 12 at the encouragement of my father, learning songs by Buddy Holly & Carl Perkins. By the end of middle school, I discovered several guitarists whose tone influenced my taste greatly: Mark Knopfler, Jerry Garcia, Lowell George and Jimmy Page. This was at a time when the tones these players made were not really in fashion (it was the mid- to late 1980s). Vintage 1960s and early 1970s guitar tones are now considered to be classic, of course. Medium-wattage tube amplifiers, simple pickups/simple guitars made in the late 1950s, and a minimal use of effects – all contributed to the singing, shimmering, round “golden” tone they achieved. This tone aesthetic is my goal as well.
Rehearsing for my 40th birthday concert, January 2014.
L-R: Tauras Biskis, drums. My wife Shelagh Hackett, vocals. Me on guitar. Brian Weiland, drums. Mike Benjamin, guitar & vocals.
All images, video, tool designs, & recordings are ©2009-2015 Boaz Kirschenbaum.
All rights reserved.