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Aug 21, 2019

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My Economy

Tuning pianos to fill in the financial gaps

Marketplace Staff Aug 6, 2018
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Michael McTigue listens to a concert grand Model D piano in the final tuning room at the Steinway & Sons factory in Long Island City, New York, in 2005.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

My Economy tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.


This week we hear from a music teacher who decided he needed another source of income while looking for a full-time job.

My name is Kody Willnauer. I live in Tonganoxie, Kansas, and I’m an elementary music teacher. The idea of going to school to be a schoolteacher and then getting a job was pretty standard. But when I was finishing my teaching degree, I realized that the amount of opportunities was very slim. And so I ended up substitute teaching for an additional two years. I needed another way to provide income for my family while still searching for that teaching job. So I took a shot in the dark and cold emailed a piano tuner in the area and asked, “Is there any way I can learn from you?” Found an individual who said, “Sure, somebody taught me, the least I could do was teach somebody else.”

There really aren’t a lot of piano tuners anymore. Most of the people around me were either career adults or soon-to-be-retiring career adults. So I feel like one of the things I could do was learn as much as I can and then be that next generation of piano tuners after those piano tuners retire.

I think of when my grandmother finishes her plate after every meal, and it’s one of those, “Well, she grew up in the Great Depression, that’s what you were told to do, right?” Financially, I need to finish my plate. In 2011, I did get a full-time job at an elementary school teaching music, which I am still there today. But when I went back to get my graduate degree, again, it was one of those times where I could use my piano tuning income to supplement going back to grad school. It’s a result of those secondary jobs of tuning a piano or running my own business that I can really help accelerate to get to those goals faster than just relying on one income or one paycheck.

Tell us how your personal economy is doing, and your story may be featured in a future My Economy. 

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