I can’t believe it! What a terrible loss!
That was my first reaction when I read the news on FaceBook about the death of Yoshi Nishimura, considered THE piano technician in Honolulu. Chances are, not many people in the pews and the concert hall audiences knew about this quiet, unassuming man. But I dare say that every single musician in Honolulu knew Yoshi, the piano tuner. You see, he was the technician for the pianos at the University of Hawaii, the Honolulu Symphony, and lots of schools (including Iolani, where I am the chapel organist). Yes, he even tuned the Grotrien piano for years and years at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and worked on the piano in the early years when it was located in Maui.
In today’s Star-Advertiser, Steven Mark said that “Honolulu has the highest rate of piano teachers per capita in the nation,” and Yoshi’s piano dealership, Mozart House, serviced many of them. However it was his piano technician skills which won him an international reputation and he, in fact, was even flown specially to Switzerland to work on the pianos of the great Vladimir Ashkenazy. According to the newspaper article, there are quotes from Misha Dichter, Jose Feghall (Van Cliburn gold medalist), and Joseph Bloch (Juilliard School of Music) to attest to Yoshi’s genius as a piano technician. Yoshi would spend hours and hours working on a piano to its perfection. In the article, Mark says Yoshi was even offered a position in the Juilliard School as piano technician, but he turned it down, preferring to live in Hawaii.
A few years ago, our local American Guild of Organists took a tour of Yoshi’s piano studio. Yoshi had several unusual instruments and this Bösendorffer piano with its red lid and trim caught my eye.
Here’s what local musicians said about Yoshi. “His discipline and work ethic was simply amazing. . .He worked on the piano for over 8 hours WITHOUT A BREAK. . . It is a loss not only for the community, but the music world . . . There will never be another one like him.” Carl Crosier said, “Yoshi was a true artist. Not only did he have a fantastic ear, but he knew piano mechanism inside and out.”
Yoshi’s memorial service will be held tomorrow (October 27th) at Kawaiaha’o Church with music starting at 3:00 pm, and the service at 4:00 pm. Mark Wong, who has subbed for me several times at LCH, will play the service since organist Buddy Naluai will be away.
Aloha, Yoshi. We will miss you!