Whidbey Daily “Free Pianos” by Kathy Reed

Deano the Clown looks to give away 50 pianos
By Kathy Reed on September 20, 2015: WHIDBEY DAILY News

To call Dean Petrich of Freeland a true renaissance man is accurate, but it doesn’t quite do him justice.

He is a much sought-after registered piano technician, better known as a piano tuner. He is also a professional clown. He’s been a photographer, he designed and built his eco-friendly home, he is a father, a mentor, a friend and a purveyor of fun and frolic. He is many things rolled into one energetic package.

His first love, though, is the piano. And he has amassed 50 of them he’d like to give away for free.
“At one point over the summer I had six tents with 12 pianos in each of them,” he said.

Today most of the pianos that are still playable are in one shed, while several other tents on his property hold various pieces and parts, some of which can be recycled, some of which cannot.

“Piano keys make good kindling,” Petrich said. “But sound boards can be used for guitars, piano legs make nice supports for shelves.”

Petrich’s search for homes for his pianos is not limited to those that can still be played. He is also looking for artists who would like to take the unsalvageable instruments and turn them into sculptures or other imaginative art or unique furniture pieces.

“The more creative, the better,” Petrich said, making some suggestions. “Some pianos aren’t worth fixing, but they could be used to make a neat bar, a desk, a bookshelf, a little closet, a vanity.”

While piano tuning has been a lucrative career, especially when he tuned three or four pianos fives days a week and spent weekends working as Deano the Clown, times have changed. Dean Petrich points to a unique mirror feature on one of the many pianos he has on his property.

“People don’t play pianos anymore, they have electronic keyboards,” he said. “So here you have all these people who have inherited a piano from a family member, but they don’t play them, or the piano is in terrible shape. We’re a throw-away society. People don’t want them anymore. I’m making more money hauling away unwanted pianos than I am tuning and fixing them,” said Petrich.

While he still gets plenty of tuning calls from people on Whidbey Island and in Seattle, Petrich has found himself with a surplus of old pianos. He has disassembled the ones that aren’t fixable, but he still has at least 50 of the instruments he would like to give away before the rainy season kicks in and the moisture ruins them.

Petrich started taking piano lessons he was in Kindergarten, and took up the violin in fourth grade.
“When I was in sixth or seventh grade, my parents made me choose, so I chose the violin because it was easier to carry.”

Petrich still plays both instruments to this day, but tuning pianos has been his bread and butter over the years. Piano tuning built his house, he said.

On a guided tour of his home and property, Petrich’s creativity is evident, from his hexagon-shaped house to the secret tunnel to the slide one can take down to the sauna to the three zip lines he has on his property. It’s clear he has fun doing what he does. Although there aren’t as many calls for clowns these days, either. His hope is to spread some enjoyment – either to those who want to play the piano or those who can use them creatively. His work has become an odd point, counter-point.

“I have two apprentices who come every Monday. I’m teaching them how to fix and tune pianos, and then I spend other days ripping unwanted pianos apart,” he said.

Anyone interested in acquiring a piano either to play or to use as an art piece can contact Petrich at (206) 324-5055.