Some people are lucky enough to be able to pinpoint the precise moment they fell in love. They can recall the instantaneous feeling that came over them in that moment. Stephen Cinti is one of those people. When he was an awkward 15-year-old with unfashionably long hair, sporting 70s band t-shirts with cut-off sleeves, he fell in love with music. He had been playing electric guitar for a year and built his skills up enough to start a band in Boise, called Silversmith.
Boise, Idaho wasn’t exactly saturated with live performers in the 90s, so despite their inexperience, Silversmith was able to book some regular paying gigs. Stephen’s first time to play with them was at a music festival at a rundown shopping center. He remembers the feeling of his hand hitting the guitar strings. Sound came out and bounced against the walls and then back and surrounded him. That powerful sound connected with his emotions like a spiritual awakening.
Trials and Tribulations
At that moment, he knew music was all he wanted to do with the rest of his life, and from then on, he poured all of his energy into it. He practiced for hours every day. He played with multiple bands and eventually moved to Los Angeles for music school, and afterwards to the "Live Music Capital of the World:" Austin, Texas. Here he faced the trials of being a struggling musician and independent adult, gigging late at night, working odd hours in the demanding service industry, and sleeping in the daytime.
There were hard times when he questioned his commitment to being a professional musician, but he felt a drive to constantly grow in his skills. Music gave him a sense of accomplishment. When he was performing, he went into a flow state. But the daily grind of his thankless job, keeping odd hours, and playing shows in the oppressive Texas heat just to scrape by, didn’t feel sustainable. He began exploring other options, though his heart still longed to be playing music.
A new relationship
After a time of searching, he found a passion that married his love for music with a rewarding career, when he discovered the field of piano technology. Stephen had grown up learning to play piano; his mom was a piano teacher. He remembered when the piano tuner would come tune the piano at their house, but tuning pianos wasn’t something he had ever considered doing himself.
A marriage made in heaven
The first time he met with another piano technician, Steve Walthal (another Steve), Stephen felt a connection to piano technology similar to what he felt playing music. Like his own personal Mr. Miyagi, Steve introduced Stephen to the world of piano technology. Steve explained harmonic partials and inharmonicity to Stephen while they wandered around the greenbelt near Steve’s central Texas home, hand feeding turtles and wild deer. Combining many of Stephen’s past interests and a lifetime of skills and experiences with woodworking, robotics, customer service, and music, it all converged into a career path that seemed meant to be.
The honeymoon is over
That’s not to say it was easy. Like learning a new instrument or craft, there was a frustrating period of being a novice. Stephen felt discouraged when he couldn’t always achieve the product he wanted, and was humbled by the stage of being a beginner. Over time, he improved his skills through many hours of practicing tuning and eventually reached the tipping point, where he achieved the proper technique.
Happily ever after
Tuning became like playing music, a space where he could go into a flow state and enjoy the experience. The shift happened when he met with another seasoned technician, Jack Bresette-Mills. “Steve taught me the science of tuning; Jack taught me the art.” Now Stephen connects both elements to produce his tunings. Every instrument is different, but when he really jives with a piano, the tuning process can make him slip into another level of consciousness and concentration, like playing music or creating art. With tuning, he has found a new home for his love of music and feels honored to spend his time doing such rewarding work.