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People Top 5
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- May 02, 1977
- Vol. 7
- No. 17
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."
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