Oahu man makes pianos come to life

Wendy Yamashita
Wendy Yamashita
Yoshi Nishimura
Yoshi Nishimura
Ernest Chang
Ernest Chang

By Leland Kim - bio | email

IWILEI (KHNL) -   A professional pianist can make a piano sing, but there's another person who is responsible for making the instrument sound its best. It's a piano technician and one of the world's best lives right here in Hawaii.

This 250-year-old Chopin piece comes to life in the graceful hands of Wendy Yamashita.  This Juilliard trained pianist started playing when she was only two.

"When I'm at the piano, the sound affects my soul," said Yamashita.

When the pianist and her instrument perform at their peak, the sound can move the world.

"That is my job as a pianist, as a musician, to communicate through my music, without words," said Yamashita.  "So if I can affect one person, it makes it such a rewarding profession for me."

But Yamashita can't reach her audience if her piano is out of tune.  That's where a professional piano technician comes in.

Meet Yoshi Nishimura.  When he works on a piano, he has a singular goal:

"To make most purest harmony on the 88 keys," he said.

To do that requires the ear of an elephant and the patience of a fox.

"And he's the hardest worker that I know of," said Ernest Chang, a respected piano instructor on Oahu. "And he would work, and work and work on an instrument, until he finally feels satisfied that he brought that instrument up to the best it can possibly sound."

That's why he's been entrusted with some of the rarest and most valuable instruments in the world.

One of the pianos he maintains is this $700,000 Bösendorfer Swarovski piano. It has 9,000 encrusted crystals and it is one of three in the entire world.

Nishimura is considered one of the best piano technicians in the world.  That's because he sets the bar very high for himself.

"I like to make a piano sound like a human voice," he said.

And connect with an audience the way best performers can.

"That's the most rewarding part of performing," said Yamashita.  "If I touch one person's heart or if I've communicated to at least one person, I feel satisfied."

"I just feel, 'Oh, I don't need anything. Just drink one cup of wine tonight, and that's enough," said Nishimura. "That's the way I feel: a very happy feeling to get."

Nishimura has been doing this for almost 50 years and has no plans to retire.  He is 68 years old.