Corbin Sturch has found a way to turn his love of music into a lucrative entrepreneurial endeavor.
The talented University of the Ozarks rising junior is an accomplished organist, can play 15 different musical instruments and is a member of the University Chamber Singers. But it’s his prowess with tuning pianos that has made him somewhat of a prodigy, not to mention extra spending money.
In a field where most established professionals are older, Sturch has developed a reputation that belies his youth. His thriving business of tuning and maintaining pianos includes such clients as the U of O music department as well as dozens of high schools, churches, individuals and organizations throughout the region.
The music, religion and radio/television/video (RTV) major from Lynn, Ark., said his interest in piano tuning and repair was actually a love that grew out of necessity.
“I grew up in a family where we were constantly building, fixing or doing,” he said. “In the midst of all of this, I had this terribly old upright piano that I used to practice on. It didn’t really play and it was just a horrible instrument. Eventually, I decided it was time to get something done about the instrument and I started calling local tuners. No one would touch my piano, so I started taking lessons in piano tuning and technology through the American School of Piano Tuning and started learning to do it myself. Later, after being at Ozarks, I was afforded the opportunity to travel around the country to study with some of the best piano technicians in the field to improve my craft. It is because of them that I have been able to turn my love for making pianos work into a business. This was something I never intended to do as a career but it has grown into such a great thing for me that I can’t deny it is something I will be doing for the rest of my life for more than just myself.”
Sturch said there is no universal magic formula to being a good piano tuner.
“A good piano tuner is someone who will go the extra mile when working on an instrument or with a client to ensure good work and satisfaction,” he said. “A good tuner is always ready to learn from their mistakes and take on more challenges and admit when they are stumped. Lastly, a good tuner is trustworthy. Many times we are left the keys to people’s homes or buildings, and given a whole lot of trust, blindly sometimes. A good tuner will never tarnish that trust with a client. There is no perfect ear for pitch, or magic pixie dust that makes a great tuner, it is all hard work, humility, and ethics.”
While Sturch enrolled at Ozarks as a music and religion major, he quickly discovered through the liberal arts curriculum that he had an interest in RTV as well.
“I really loved music and theology. They were my passion; things that I knew I wanted to study and learn more about,” he said. “The RTV program for me was like that secret guilty pleasure we all have. It was a fun, exciting, busy-work atmosphere that I craved. It was a challenge for me, and something that greatly refined my other skills and personality. I really can’t say how they all correlate, other than they are all loves for me and help balance who I am. The running joke is that I am all set for a televangelist. But really for me they all have become necessary skills in my trade as a musician and piano technician when working with some of my clients.”
His love of music along with the technical and broadcast skills he learned in the RTV program were the impetus for Sturch to create and produce his own weekly radio show, “From the Concert Hall,” on the university’s radio station, KUOZ FM-100.5. In March, the show won the prestigious golden microphone trophy for a first-place finish at the 76th annual International Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) Conference’s 2015-16 Awards Program.
The Friday evening show delves into the theory, history and culture of music, primarily pre-1955 classical music.
“When I started my radio show, it was something for fun that was never really something I intended to get as big as it did,” he said. “Quite simply put, we just did not think many people listened to or would listen to a show about classical music and the arts. We were very wrong. I think the show was successful because of the amazing co-hosts and the great artists and guests we have had on the show. We’ve gotten great support by our peers in the department as well as faculty members who advise me on what my next step could be with the show. The success of the show can’t be attributed to one person or thing. A show like this is a group effort.”
Sturch described his musical tastes as “varied as the colors in a box of Crayola crayons. My taste changes with my mood, and there isn’t anything that I can’t find something to listen too in any type of music, even modernist atonal music.”
“Music is to me what books are to a writer. I love music, it plays a part in most everything I do. It is my living, my passion, my hobby and my way of life. Music has been a defining point in my life, and I honestly have to credit much of the successes in my life to it in some way. I don’t really know when I first became interested in music. Some people grow up around baseball and grow up loving baseball, they never really know when it starts. Others find it randomly and it is their love. Music is like that for me. I didn’t grow up with musicians around me, it was something I found early on that just was an instant connection. Probably the earliest connection I have with music is just growing up in a small town singing on Sunday, it was and is something I still love to this day.”
Sturch said his experience at Ozarks have helped hone, refine and expand his skills.
“Ozarks has been a blessing for me musically,” he said. “I am taught by amazing faculty and staff who really care about my growth, not only as a musician but also as an individual and as a scholar. Here at Ozarks I have had the opportunity to sing in the choirs on campus and around the state, I have gotten to play for chapel services, and have had the ability to serve in some pretty amazing ways that I would not have gotten had I gone to a larger institution. The biggest thing for me is the amazing support from the faculty, staff and my friends that continues to help grow and shape me for success in the future.”
Sturch singled out his faculty advisors—Dr. Sharon Gorman, Dr. Dave Daily and Susan Edens—for playing a major role in his success.
“Even before coming to Ozarks, my music advisor, Dr. Gorman, was there for me, asking me hard questions about my life and my goals, supporting me, and saying what sometimes needed to be said to help me to grow. She has been an amazing mentor to me and really was one of the defining reasons in me coming to Ozarks. Also influential to me has been Dr. Daily. He has helped me over the course of the last two years to better understand my spiritual calling and what it might mean for me. He has helped me better understand the world around me and how it all relates to the study of religion and my life. Finally, I couldn’t have done most of what I have done in radio and television without the help of Ms. Edens in the RTV program. She has been helping me since day one to better understand what the media is and how I can make the most of it. Her real-life experiences in the field of radio broadcasting helped me during the formation of my show, and continues to help me to this day when I think about expanding and trying something new.”
He plans to work this summer at the Presbyterian Mo-Ranch Assembly in Texas where he will be a meeting and event services intern. He will help coordinate the facility’s 25,000-square-feet conference center, another step in his career goals to combined his loves of music, religion and communications.
“I’m going to find some brilliant way to combine all of these majors to be successful in life,” he said. “Over the short term, I would love to go to graduate school, hopefully somewhere as supportive and amazing as Ozarks has been for me. In the long-term, I hope to continue running my own business and seeing it grow so that I would be able to share my experiences with others.”