His own tune

Michael Corchran

Photo By Desiree Cousineau

An impromptu road trip with a few friends led Michael Corchran to a new career. Far from home and running out of money, Corchran got a job in a music store, and the rest is history—piano history at least. After years of working as the “Piano Doctor” in Eureka, Corchran and his wife made the move to Chico and bought Ruhnke Piano Co. just last year.

How did you get started in this profession?

I never planned on being a piano tuner or anything. I majored in forestry and then I figured out that I was barking up the wrong tree—I didn’t want to do that. I had always done music, guitar and piano as a hobby and opportunities just came along. Like the blind piano tuner I met. I did a one-year apprenticeship with him back in 1976. He taught me how to be an aural tuner because he couldn’t see to use the machines. I [also] met this old guy who had a mechanical antique music museum and wanted an apprentice. He is the one who taught me how to do piano-player and mechanical music stuff.

You specialize in player pianos. Explain them a little bit.

Hardly anyone knows how to do that stuff and I know how to install those in any piano. Basically what it is, is it’s just like a stereo system, like a juke box except the piano is playing live. With the new discs, you can get anything. You know, Elton John, Billy Joel, Whitney Huston, Journey, Alicia Keys, Fleetwood Mac. You just take the disc and pop it in the player. In a couple of months, they are going to go out and record all of these people in concert and that will be put on a disc, which will feed to your TV. So you’ll watch the concert on your TV, it will come out of your stereo system, and the piano will play the piano part.

Tell more about your plans for Ruhnke Piano Co.

I am going to build a stage, real soon, all along the back wall. I am going to put a grand up there so the kids can come and use it to do the recitals and I’m not going to charge them. It’s like a community service, you know?

You’re the new owner of an older business. Anything you want the community to know?

I am doing kind of a restoration. I feel like I’ve spent my whole life, my adult life, getting ready to do something like this. I tell people, if you want to catch a fish, you get a guy to take you out and show you where to go. If you want a piano, I’m a piano guide.