Out-of-tune pianos may not be the biggest challenge facing the Church, but I think the problem deserves a little more attention. I used to think it was a local problem only, but a musician friend of mine from Missouri was telling me about how widespread the problem is in his part of the world, too. To be frugal with Church funds – a highly commendable objective in general – local leaders with responsibilities over buildings tend to negotiate bottom-dollar contracts with tuners to handle the pianos of multiple buildings in the area. It saves a lot of money, but it also means that the work tends to go to low bidders who may not see a profit if they give each piano as much time and attention as might really be needed. Typically, the people calling the shots about who does the tuning and how often it is don’t recognize when the work is not being done well. As a result, wonderful instruments may be chronically out of tune. Ouch.
One possible quick fix is for musically oriented folks to hire a competent piano tuner on their own and smuggle him or her into the building to do the job right, perhaps on a Monday evening when it’s almost sure to be unoccupied. Is this ethical?
A better solution might be for musicians and Church leaders to work together to ensure that pianos are well tuned. If cost really is a barrier, I know that cheerful donors could readily be found in every Stake.
Local leaders and physical facilities managers, I encourage you to not take shortcuts on this issue. Music is an important part of worship, but when a piano is out of tune, it can hinder skilled musicians (especially when additional instruments are present) and limit the power of music for the rest of us as well.