I realize that Comrie has created a lot of music in his lifetime, and this is what he did for me. I was having the toughest time trying to find somebody who could teach me to tune a piano within a couple of weeks. I had a gig coming up as a keyboard tech and I wanted to take on the additional responsibility tuning the piano. In asking some of the institutions and manufacturers, I was being laughed at. I talked to Bob Shindle about this at the point where I was about to give up and Bob suggested that there is this guy, Comrie, that comes to Q-107 to tune the grand and maybe I could ask him if I could sit-in and watch him tune and see if he will show me something. So I did.
Comrie was very receptive to my ambition and after having me tune a couple of unisons said that I had the feel and might be able to do it. While he was there to do a job, he took the extra time to teach me how to temper and tune a piano in 3 gracious lessons. I was an eager kid showing up and he gave me the tools and the ear to be able to tune. He had infinite patience and was a true mentor. I understood that he was there to do a job, but he never made me feel intrusive or uncomfortable. Rather the opposite. My eyes, ears and mind were completely open to his most
tantric suggestions and advice regarding this creative and technical art. I graciously absorbed every word and example, making my notes along the way which I keep with me today. Comrie mentored me in a very short time and gave me the tools and knowledge that would evolve my future work when nobody else would even attempt.
When he said that I was ready to do it on my own, I went to Vancouver to tackle Bryan Adam's touring pianos and while on my own, failed miserably. I called Comrie from Vancouver and asked if I could get a 'refresher' before heading to England as I had a stop in Toronto before venturing onward. He asked what the problem was and agreed to meet me at Q-107, eventhough it wasn't his regular time to do a tuning. My problem wasn't technical, as he had given me this. My problem was confidence. I went through a tuning with Comrie over my shoulder, correcting my sonic indiscretions, and he gave me that last push that a good mentor gives a student, a boost of additional knowledge and confidence that I did it on my own.
That would be the last time that I would see Comrie, in the spring of 1997, though he has never left my thoughts.
I went to England and did my tuning in the rehearsal hall and then the Bryan Adams band started their rehearsals. Shortly after starting the keyboardist asked who tuned the piano. I suspected he was not satisfied and I figured that I would confess my attempt and we would all carry on with the result. He said to me, this is a very musical tuning…I like it! I called Comrie and let him know that I passed the audition and he had words of support and encouragement. The seeds that Comrie planted in me would grow and develop in my passion for tuning through my pursuit of the art.
As I moved along, I never forgot his lessons and technique. I grew with his example and wisdom and expanded my knowledge based not only on his lessons, but moreso by his work ethic.
Since that brief time in 1997, I have had the pleasure to be touring tuner for Bette Midler, Josh Groban, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Steely Dan and Bon Jovi.
Comrie started me on a path that would shape my future. He gave a kid the chance to do it or not. After the Paul McCartney tour, I made attempts to contact him but fell short in making contact. I wanted to share with him my success as a piano tuner/ technician. Wanting to go back to the teacher to say 'the methods that you taught me, the seeds that you planted, have grown through your knowledge and patience into a wonderful career where I can share that same passion with others. For that, I am eternally grateful'.
What Comrie has given me, selflessly, will be part of the fabric of my being for all time. He has always been with me. That is how a student will always see his mentor.
God Bless you Comrie, and Thank You.
Bill St. Amour