Ep. 63: Confessions of a piano tuner, with Billy Sadler

Billy Sadler & Menahem Pressler (circa 2012)

October 6, 2020



Piano tuners interact with a broad swath of people, including performing celebrities, stage crew, academics, and everyday families with kids taking lessons. They interact with people on stage, backstage, in their workplaces, and in their homes. Billy Sadler has been an Independent Piano Tuner & Technician since 1971. He shares some of his experiences with celebrities including Prince, Leon Fleisher, Harry Connick Jr., and Chris Thile.


Billy Sadler has been an Independent Piano Tuner & Technician since 1971. He is currently the Concert Technician for Schmitt Music and Steinway Artist Concerts, and for universities including the University of Minnesota and Hamline University. He has extensive experience as a Tuning Examiner, lecturer, and private instructor.


Billy tells about his experiences with performers including:

  • Van Cliburn and his mother
  • Leon Fleisher (and shares a voice message from Leon)
  • Chick Corea
  • Chris Thile
  • Prairie Home Companion
  • Harry Connick Jr. (and his unexpected pre-performance ritual)
  • Angela Hewitt
  • Olga Kern
  • Prince/Paisley Park Studios
  • Norah Jones
  • Tony Bennett

I was fortunate enough to have Billy tune MY piano recently:

Connect/Other Resources

Billy has worked with some very famous customers. A silver lining of the pandemic for those of us “commoners” (including myself) is that he has more availability and can tune our pianos! If you live in the Twin Cities area and would like Billy to work on your piano, you may make an appointment here: Concertpianoservices.as.me


Billy shares with us a song he played on the guitar – a “short item from my imagination” written by a lake, under the stars, around the time he met his now-wife.

Closing Words

Thank you so much to Billy for sharing these fun behind-the-scenes stories from his experiences with some of these talented people. If anyone from over at MacPhail listens to this episode and you DO have the piano that Leon Fleisher played and signed, I would love to have you send me a picture of it in its current home – including a picture of the cast iron frame with all the signatures on it of the artists who loved it enough to sign it! If I do get any pictures, I will add those to these show notes. If you have any fun back-stage stories to share, I’d love to hear them! You can connect with me on email, social media, or my website. You can also send me a voice memo that I can share with others in the Enhance Life with Music community by playing in an upcoming episode! Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.


A huge thank-you to Doug Schmitt (Schmitt Music) for sending me this treasure trove of photos and information about the Leon Fleisher Steinway that is now at MacPhail:


And thank you to MacPhail for sending this video teaser of a performance that used the American Steinway. Pianist is Richard Tostenson.

MacPhail President & CEO Paul Babcock says:

Hi Mindy,

The piano he is talking about is one of the two Steinway Concert Ds in Antonello Hall. It’s an amazing piano loved by all who play it and hear it. As Billy indicates, we purchased that piano from Schmitt Music when we opened the new building in 2008. After two trips to Steinway in New York and not liking any of them, Sue Freeman Dopp of Schmitt music led us to the Concert Artist Steinway that was already here in the Twin Cities. We played the piano in their Roseville Showroom and it was exactly what we were looking for.

I hadn’t heard that Leon Fleisher was one of the artist who had played and signed it. There are several signatures on the cast iron frame. Most of them are hard to read. Others that I know signed it include Emanuel Ax, Ahmad Jahmal and Bruce Hornsby. Today it is played by hundreds of musicians of all ages and abilities.