Elizabeth Wheeler was 21 and "really depressed" about her job as an editorial assistant in a windowless New York office. One day she called in a man to tune the piano in her West Side apartment. "When he took out the action—the mechanism that connects the key with the hammer—I was enchanted," she recalls. "The next day I went out and bought a technical book, a tuning hammer and a fork." She had discovered her calling. Now 24, Wheeler has become a piano technician who tunes, repairs, reconditions and rebuilds pianos six days a week in a Greenwich Village shop. Tuning is $20, and extensive rebuilding can run as high as $500. At first Wheeler was unable to find anyone who was willing to accept her as an apprentice. She finally moved to Berkeley, Calif. and met Benjamin Treuhaft, who had worked for Steinway. "It took me a couple of days to work up the courage to call him," she says. "But he took me tuning with him, and from that afternoon on we were partners." After five months with Treuhaft, she returned to New York and now finds business is improving steadily. "I'm not a master, but I'm good. I don't know everything about pianos, but I'm not afraid of that. The most rewarding thing is to finish the piano and have the customer sit right down and play."
Mark Edwards, 26, turned down a chance to play pro basketball in Europe because he wanted to tour with his one-man show, Man's Most Dangerous Myths. The play consists of seven skits which, like Alex Haley's Roots, dramatize the white dehumanization of black Americans and the destruction of the black American family. Edwards lives in Washington, D.C. but has performed at schools in the U.S., England and France, taking both the white and black roles. "My play shows the complexity of how the problem of racism begins, where it stands and how we can change it." Edwards always makes the white members of the audience sit in the back of the theater. "That shakes them up," he says. "Later I'll ask, 'Now wasn't that ridiculous?' And they'll say it was. Then I'll say, 'Well, it wasn't ridiculous when blacks had to sit in the back of the bus.' " A graduate of Georgetown University's School of Business Administration, Edwards says his mother would "like to see me work for Xerox, but money is not that important to my life. Many of my friends have said I won't make it and have abandoned me, but if I don't try, I've already failed."