By Jim Denton
January 19, 2024

Impact on Edmond: Gary Bruce & Bruce Piano

Discover Gary Bruce's unique journey from musician to piano tuner.
Gary Bruce, owner of Bruce Piano (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

“I was determined to be a rock musician. That never really happened.” Gary Bruce, owner of Bruce Piano, recalled when asked about how he got started in the piano-tuning business. In the late 70s, a record producer from Dallas promised Gary’s OKC-based part-time rocker band that if his band would move to Dallas, they would produce their work. Gary and his wife, Jan, were both eager to make the move to Dallas, although for different reasons. Gary wanted to get in on the Dallas recording scene. Jan’s folks lived in Ft. Worth, and that metro area was home for her.

Excited about the possibility of moving to God’s Country, the Bruces sold their north Oklahoma City homestead. However, news came that there was a contractual glitch with one of the band’s songs, and the recording plans disintegrated – a common thing in the music business.

The obvious strategy for the couple was to stay here in Oklahoma and set their stakes in the Edmond area, where they had connections for Gary’s guitar and Jan’s piano teaching practices. They met in college at Oklahoma Christian while playing in a cover band called Windstormers and were married in 1976.

How it started

Gary Bruce’s first piano tuning engagement was back in 1973 when he asked his college chum, Paul Honeycutt, to help him move a piano to his rent house on Reynolds Road. While he and Paul hoisted the small grand into Paul’s truck, Gary casually mentioned that he was learning how to tune pianos.

Paul suggested that Gary could tune his (Paul’s) mother’s piano. While Gary warned Paul that he was just starting to learn how, Paul interrupted, “You can’t make it any worse!” Bruce immediately invested in some piano tuning tools and successfully tuned Paul’s mom’s piano.

After college, while employed as a music therapist in Norman and booking rock and roll gigs at night, Gary also began teaching guitar at Oklahoma Christian as an adjunct instructor of music.

On New Year’s Day 1977, Gary and Jan moved to Oklahoma City, and Gary began working in a cabinet shop in OKC. He honed his skills in cabinetry, roofing, remodeling, and carpentry. He built cabinets in several homes in Forest Oaks, Heritage Heights, and elsewhere in Edmond and OKC. 

Taking one for our Lord (and the team), Gary broke his ankle playing in a church league softball game. He was required to take a sabbatical from his construction duties. While laid-up and passively thumbing through one of Jan’s piano teaching magazines, Gary dog-eared an ad for a ten-part correspondence piano-tuning course available by mail order. He sent off for it and eagerly completed the work when it came via U.S. Mail.

Meanwhile, Gary and Jan were also teaching private lessons at Edmond Music. As customary, the Bruces had a teacher account for which they both had accrued a balance for music purchased, drumsticks, guitar picks, strings, etc., from the store.

One day, the store’s owner made an offer to Gary, “I hear you’re starting to tune pianos. Why don’t you come in and tune our store pianos and work off the balance in your account?”

Gary got busy and tuned thirteen store pianos that week in the summer of 1980. Those pianos gave him some needed experience to get started. Pleased with his work, he was soon referred by Edmond Music to tune the pianos of their piano customers and anyone else who needed those services. 

Finding mentors

The last chapter of the correspondence piano-tuning course recommended the student join a local Piano Technicians Guild chapter. Gary soon became a regular at the Oklahoma City chapter meetings and developed some life-long friendships with some great mentors. Those mentors have been a fount of guidance over the years. It was very helpful to pick up the phone and call these technicians with questions.

When working with pianos, “there are proper ways of doing things and damaging ways. Seek out someone who’s been there and done that. There is wisdom in many counselors,” Bruce advised. He quickly reeled off the names of three great mentors in his career and how he appreciated their tutelage, saying, “I want to be one of those guys now.”

The Bruces have lived in seven different homes in Edmond and the surrounding area. Being skilled at home construction, Gary has made substantial improvements and additions to each of the homes. He completely built one of the homes from scratch in his spare time.

“It took me four years to build that house, and we only lived there for three years!” he quipped. Bruce’s cabinet-making and carpentry skills play well into his business of restoring pianos.

These days, Gary’s son, Jordan Bruce, heads up the retail side of Bruce Piano, while Gary’s focus is piano tuning and piano restoration work. If you know the Bruces, it’s no big secret that Jordan is more of a risk-taker than his father. Gary describes himself as a “very conservative, cautious risk taker.”

With his sales acumen, Jordan has expanded Bruce Piano into piano sales. “We work together pretty well when our schedules allow…but we don’t see each other much.” Gary and Jordan both do a lot of service work in the field at customer locations, and their schedules occasionally have them both at the showroom/shop at 13726 N Lincoln Boulevard in Edmond. “I like it when we work together,” Gary added.

One door shuts, another opens 

Gary Bruce sitting at piano in his store in Edmond (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

Gary spoke of an opportunity that he was offered with Baldwin Piano in 1990. Working for Baldwin would require Gary to move his family, including three children, to Conway, Arkansas. There were lots of considerations, and uprooting kids is a difficult decision. While wrestling with this one day, Gary flipped open his Bible and randomly read a Psalm about “taking care of your own garden and watering your own vines.” Bruce continued, “Something said to me: do your own business and decline the offer.”

Not long after that, he learned that Baldwin Piano was in financial trouble and eventually went bankrupt.

A couple of years later, a fourth child came along, and in addition to teaching and piano tuning, Gary obtained a real estate license and began working with Century 21, Mark V Realty in Edmond. He earned the Rookie of the Year Award.

Then, in 1994, Gary was called to be a Worship Minister at Quail Springs Church of Christ, where he served for 18 years. His love for music and the Lord blended nicely there, and he composed many worship songs during that time.

Most recently, he composed the music for a set of 15 hymn lyrics written by J. Terry Johnson, former President of Oklahoma Christian. Other Edmond-centric songs he has written include a theme song for The Kids’ Place after the Murrah bombing, a school song for Oklahoma Christian Academy, a school song for Washington Irving Elementary School, and a song to commemorate Oklahoma Christian’s change from college to university status called Goodbye OCC. 

Pianos are personal

“They can easily outlive us,” Gary observed when discussing pianos. Not long ago, Jordan was contacted about a piano in storage, a Steinway that was originally built back in the 1860s. This instrument needed significant work since it was damaged due to not being kept in a climate-controlled environment.

Steinway started building pianos in the 1850s. That was over 170 years ago! The instrument is currently being restored by the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the Piano Technician Guild, who are donating their time to restore it.

Gary shared a memory of a lady with an old upright piano. Her piano had lots of chipped and missing ivory keys. Bruce Piano has a stock of old ivories but can also install new plastic keytops. This lady expressly stated that she wanted the piano’s old keys replaced with new keys. Gary replaced all of them with plastic keys, which are a lot cheaper than real ivory. When the job was finished, it looked great.

After delivery, the customer called back. She was crying because her fingers no longer touched where Grandma’s fingers had. She begged, “Can you put the ivories back on?” Gary said, “No. We can’t.”

Fortunately, Gary explained to her that his shop had drawers full of other ivories from other pianos, and some of them could be hers, but those that Grandma touched were not specifically marked. “So, I put ivories back on.” In the end, she was happy. “Now we get that kind of detail in writing,” Bruce concluded.

Gary shared about moving pianos and how people were often amazed when he showed up with only himself, a four-wheel dolly, and a few straps. There was an episode about a potential customer who called for a quote on piano moving. For some reason, after receiving Bruce’s modest quote, this person attempted to transport their family heirloom on the back of their own pickup truck.

The (soon-to-be) customer rounded a corner a little fast, and the piano was on the street, busted into pieces. They called Gary to give them an estimate of damages. The repair bill was exponentially more than the proposed moving charge.

A life of service

“I have found that most people have experienced the frustration of waiting for service and delivery people to show. I make it a point to be on time,” Gary explained. “People love it when I ring their doorbell and it’s the exact time they scheduled.”

Bruce elaborated, “Following the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do to you) is never a bad thing. Punctuality and honesty are so important. Treat people with the Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Bruce believes people appreciate those attributes. “Be friendly and courteous, not disruptive in their home. Music and piano are personal for them. Me spending an hour with their piano in their home can become an emotional thing.”

Gary’s advice to young people? “Limit your focus initially to what works for you.” He goes on to encourage them to “find out what you like to do, what you’re good at and what’s profitable.”

A supportive spouse

Gary spoke about him and Jan having a great relationship, which is so important to success.

“We have so much in common but we had different upbringings.” Jan was from a military family. “She’s a big planner. I’m a spontaneous kind of guy,” Gary claimed. “She kept the books for a while, and now she’s grateful not to have that role. For many years she has kept the home fires going. I was always willing to schedule the next tuning to make an extra bit of income. She has been the perfect life partner for me.” 

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About Jim Denton

Jim Denton, CPA/PFS, CGMA is Partner Emeritus of Arledge & Associates, PC where he is responsible for providing leadership to the firm’s Wealth Management firm, Summit Capital Advisors, LLC. Mr. Denton empowers his clients, so they may live their best life. He may be reached by email at

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