I interviewed this man publicly in Toronto a year ago, before an audience of piano teachers. I figured they would be most interested in hearing the stories about Glenn Gould. But no, they were more fascinated by Verne Edquist's hardscrabble childhood as a visually-impaired farm boy in northern Saskatchewan, and his coming of age at a residential school for the blind here in Ontario. So I thought I would reinterview him on camera, and make this available on YouTube.
Verne Edquist was one of Toronto’s top piano tuner-technicians of the 1960s - 1980s. Trained at the Ontario School for the Blind, he started working in Toronto piano factories as a teenager, and eventually rose to become a concert technician. Tuning for the likes of Gina Bachauer, Emil Gilels, and Victor Borge, he is most famous for his 20 years as Glenn Gould’s piano tuner, working side by side with Gould and Columbia record producer Andrew Kazdin on many of their famous Toronto recordings. He was at one point offered the job of chief piano technician at the famed Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, but turned it down in favor of his family.
Verne, now 83 years old and retired, is a kind and humble man. Happily married to Lillian since 1957. A father of four, a grandfather, and now newly a great-grandfather. I consider him a personal friend, and I interviewed him this past winter in his Toronto home about the arc of his life.
Each YouTube video lasts about 40 minutes. If you want just a couple of highlights, you could listen to Part 1 starting at 4:10, about Glenn Gould for several minutes. Or Part 2 starting at 8:12, about working in a 1940s piano factory. Or Part 2 from 29:10 to the close, about Verne’s ability to hear or see musical pitches as colors (the condition or ability called synesthesia), and about his signature concert tunings.
Please raise a glass to this fine fellow!