Hearing the news of Aretha Franklin’s death yesterday, UT’s resident piano technician Dan Frank recalled the times he met and worked for the Queen of Soul.
Frank, who has been at UT since 2014, tunes, regulates, and repairs the School of Music’s 126 pianos. He has been a concert piano technician since 1970. Before coming to UT, he worked at Eastern Illinois University, the University of Michigan, and Hammell Music and Steinway Piano Gallery. He has tuned and prepared pianos for live performances by Franklin, Leonard Bernstein, André Watts, Alicia Keys, Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., Barenaked Ladies, John Denver, President Gerald Ford, Byron Janis, Emil Gilels, Natalie Cole, Herbie Hancock, Billy Taylor, Ramsey Lewis, and many others.
In 2009, Frank was called upon to tune and prepare Franklin’s piano for a live performance at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit. The concert was later turned into a music video.
In addition to the live performance, Frank tuned pianos for several of Franklin’s studio recordings.
“She was always very pleasant,” Frank remembered.
He said Franklin had an unforgettable presence.
“I remember I was at my car, and she pulled up in her white Lincoln,” said Frank. “She straightened herself out—she was all in this beautiful white outfit. And she walked from her car, and it’s what you’d call a queen’s strut, which was befitting of her being known as the Queen of Soul.”
Franklin died Thursday at her home in Detroit at the age of 76.
Read all about Dan Franks and his work tuning the UT pianos in this 2016 issue of Noteworthy magazine.