Somerset Times

My Personal Project - Chloe Ming

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 10, Term One, 2019

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I am Chloe Ming, a Year 10 student currently working on a personal project as part of my final year in the Middle Years Programme. From the moment I was introduced to this project in Year 9, I instantly knew that I wanted to undertake something that was related to music.

Over the last 12 years of studying the piano, I have developed a strong passion as a pianist. Also, having a natural curiosity regarding how complex systems work, and a deep interest in woodwork and handicraft, it seemed a logical progression that I found myself choosing to learn how to restore and tune a piano for my project.

Finding a piano was an easy task, as my family had purchased an antique Cornish piano, circa. 1895 a couple of years ago as a furniture piece. Although it came already French polished, the piano had not been tuned for decades and therefore was totally unplayable. Originally, I had only planned to learn how to tune the piano, but it turned out the action and strings had aged so significantly, it was impossible for it to hold its tune. Thus, I embarked on the most audacious and exciting task of restoring the action and restringing the piano in addition to learning how to tune it. Restoring the action involves replacing the felts and buckskin on the action frame, pedal system, wippens, hammers and dampers in addition to lubricating the flange-joints and replacing the hammer and damper heads. Currently, I am reinstalling the hammers and wippens so the hammer heads can be replaced to begin the task of regulation in preparation for tuning. After the preliminary tuning, the strings will be replaced, and more tuning will follow.

I experience a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment when working on the piano. The restoration work is therapeutic as it provides an outlet for me to unwind and focus on a task that I completely enjoy. Since beginning this project, I have developed a profound appreciation for the complex mechanics involved in sound production. Now when I play my Mendelssohn, I have a greater love for the piano knowing so much more about its inner workings, and the countless hours all the artisans and tuners spend manufacturing such a noble instrument. This Personal Project has enriched my life and appreciation of music, and I am extremely grateful to Somerset College for the priceless learning experience.

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