By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Richard Jungman isn't intimidated by something made of 12,000 parts, comprising many diverse materials and that generates 40,000 pounds of collective wire tension.
Stumped by his avocation?
Jungman is Del Norte County and southwestern Oregon's master piano "techie."
He rebuilds, restores and tunes pianos a craft he apprenticed himself to Arthur Reblitz in New York City to learn nearly 30 years ago.
Jungman's shop and his home are filled with pianos, some of them more than 100 years old. The instruments dominate his living room, spilling over into nearly all the other rooms of the home.
The shop attached to his home holds those instruments whose inner workings and outer good looks are being reclaimed.
Jungman, originally from San Diego, came to this area by way of Ruby Ridge, Idaho, an area approximately 40 miles from Canada at the top of the Gem State's panhandle.
He'd lived there about 20 years in a cabin he made himself, without using any power tools, from timber he felled on his property.
"I'd always loved this area, the redwoods and the ocean," Jungman said. "I finally got tired of living in life-threatening conditions."
He's not kidding. He lived through winters that saw temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero.
For the most part, his neighbors were bears of nearly all shapes and sizes. Northern Idaho, bordering as it does on Montana and Canada, is home to grizzlies.
But the solitaire of his cabin, packed with books and containing a piano, and growing his own food was exactly what Jungman needed in his life at the time.
"I went there to study music, read my library and get back to the land," he said.
Jungman said his decision was "definitely a rebound from people."
"I wanted to get away from the silliness that goes with too many rats in a cage, but I came to my senses and realized it was too extreme."
Jungman took piano lessons "forever" when he lived in Los Angeles.
"I had an excellent piano teacher, Marjorie Ferringer," he said.
Somewhere along the way, though, Jungman realized that he was not a performer. That's about the time he moved to Idaho "to regroup from everything."
There he played piano about six hours a day for himself, and "for the love of it."
He also worked on pianos in the communities surrounding his corner of the world. One was in Randy Weaver's home.
Weaver gained notoriety when more than 400 members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, military and local law enforcement held him under siege during August 1992.
But as Jungman quietly said, "That's another story."
Traveling back and forth from Idaho to Southern California to visit his mother, a soft spot for this area grew in Jungman's heart.
"My route came through here and I got to know the people, and I found more work," he said. "Once it took two years to get to my mom because of the work I had to do along the way."
Lindy and Gwen Rust encouraged him to move here. Both taught music at Del Norte High School during the years before Jungman said good-bye to northern Idaho.
He remembers what impelled him to move here from his cabin in the woods.
"I had to pry my truck open with a crowbar because it was frozen," he said. "I decided that was it."
Once here, he began finding the music scene. One of its members, Gene Petrik, was ready to retire.
"Gene kind of passed the baton to me one day when he came into my shop and asked me if I would work on his piano," Jungman said.
Jungman rented a place and began to re-root his life in far Northern California.
Jill Dovre helped him find work here once Jungman started putting roots down.
"I had him tune my piano and recommended him to some people," Dovre said. "He's done some excellent things in repairing pianos, we needed a good piano tuner and craftsman here and we're thankful to have him."
Since Jungman relocated here in about 2001 or 2002, he has built up a clientele "taking care" of all the schools' and piano teachers' piano-related needs.
"I think it's working for him," said Kathy Sherwin, a local piano teacher who is one of Jungman's friends. "He has real talent, I think he's a concert pianist."
Sherwin noted that she, like Jungman, opted not to perform.
"The people in the music world here have great respect for him," Sherwin said.
Jungman's pianos include some gems,one of them the piano that survived the old Requa Inn fire.
The inn burned down decades ago, and its piano was the only piece that survived the flames.
"I refurbish, rebuild, move and tune them, but it's really more of a hobby," Jungman said.
He explained that's so because of the time it takes to disassemble, repair and reassemble a piano.
"By the time you're finished, you really don't make very much money," he said. "I'm glad my wife works."
Jungman married his "first love," his high school sweetheart Valerie July 4, 2005. They had kept in touch during the decades.
"I found her again," he said simply. "She had stayed in touch with my mom."
The nightmare of many a young piano student, the undying passion of many accomplished musicians who on earth figured out how to join wood, felt, calf skin and what seems like miles of wire together to create music?
Richard Jungman, who has made a career out of caring for pianos, credits Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori with creating the grandfather of today's piano.
Cristofori lived from 1655-1731 in the Republic of Venice during the time of the Medicis.
He was recruited to work for Prince Ferdinando de Medici at age 33. His patron was apparently fascinated with machines, which might have turned his interest to the elaborate mechanics of the instrument.
He set Cristofori up in a furnished house and paid him to create instruments.
What evolved was a 1726 design that included almost all features of the modern-day instrument.
Other information, however, suggests that by today's standards Cristofori's pianos were of very light construction.
It was derived from the harpsichord and the clavichord. Also called the pianoforte, it differed from its predecessors with a hammer-and-lever action that allows the player to modify the intensity of sound by the way he played.
They were made from cypress, but contained no metal bracing. The hammers that strike the strings were made of coiled paper glued together and covered with a strip of leather.
The three instruments that survive are described as sounding like harpsichords, older instruments that create sound by plucking the string.
Until square pianos were developed, pianos were out of financial reach of any but the wealthy.
Cristofori's pianos are displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Museo Nazionale degli strumenti Musicali in Rome and Musikinstrumenten-Museum of Leipzig University.
SOURCE: Wikipedia and MSN Encarta