How’d You Get Your Job: Piano Tuner Troy Reilly
Sometimes finding your dream job means tapping into a niche you didn’t know existed. In partnership with Hostplus, we speak with “the Piano Tuna”.
Growing up Troy Reilly had a keen interest in experimenting with all sorts of musical instruments.
“My mother has fond memories of taking me to group Yamaha music lessons as a kid and hosting rock n roll jam sessions as a teenager in my back shed.”
Despite his interest in music, “external influences” pushed him to take more of a conventional career path after school. In 1994, Reilly enrolled in a business degree at Monash University.
At the age of 21, Reilly’s life took a significant turn. He was awarded an international scholarship to study Chinese at Nanjing University, China.
“Moving to China was a huge culture shock at first. The energy was gripping. Everywhere us ‘laowai’ (foreign devils) went we became an instant attraction to the local Chinese. They simply were not accustomed to the sight of foreigners walking the streets back in those days.”
“I managed to land a job at the Australian Embassy in Beijing after meeting a couple of Aussies in a bar. That was really my first ‘real’ job out of university. I ended up moving into management and continued on in Beijing for another 10 years.”
In 2009, Reilly returned to Melbourne for his mother’s birthday and took her to see a Beatles tribute show, which prompted a new business idea.
“I thought that given China had missed out on getting The Beatles, starting up this type of a tribute act would be unique to the middle kingdom. So without hesitation I returned to China, rounded up a couple of contacts … and they agreed to form a Beatles tribute band with me as George on lead guitar.”
In 2010, The Beijing Beatles came to life. After Beatle style costumes had been custom made, wigs purchased and music rehearsed in the studio, it did not take long before gig bookings started to roll in.
Due to dangerous levels of pollution however, Reilly decided to leave China four years later into the band’s career for health reasons. In 2014 he returned to Australia.
Back in Melbourne, Reilly was keen to find a job that would combine his passion for music with a viable income. Once again, he recognised an untapped niche.
“I predicted there would be a big demand for piano tuning in Chinese due to the huge influx of wealthy Chinese moving to Melbourne. It is a fact that most of their kids learn piano.”
Reilly enrolled in a year-long course at the Australasian School of Piano Technology, the only course of its type in Australia, and learnt about tuning, regulating and basic repairs.
“I also had to develop networks ASAP … I formed an alliance with The Australian Piano Warehouse, which proved to be of mutual benefit especially when it comes to dealing with Chinese piano buyers.”
At the end of 2014, Reilly started his business, The Piano Tuna.
“Speaking Mandarin has proved to be a great competitive advantage. Chinese customers enjoy chatting away about their pianos and their own personal experiences living abroad.
“Each day I’m also meeting new and very different types of pianos all with their own unique personalities which I also find interesting. Continuing to practise improving my own piano-playing ability also helps me demonstrate a finely tuned piano at the end of each job”.
Tips for success
Reilly’s advice for those wanting to start a niche business is to be “persistent and consistent in terms of a quality service”.
“There’s that statistic that everyone talks about in regards to small businesses and how most of them fail. But I think a lot of them just give up,” he says. “My advice is to work out your end goal, work out the steps required to get there and just keep at it.”
And for those wanting to make a career out of their passion? “Research whether or not there will be significant enough customer demand for your product before you start the journey of establishing a new business venture.”
“Hi Troy, thanks so much for today, my piano is in great shape courtesy of the professional care it’s getting!”
Mr Sheridan, City of Glen Eira, 06.07.2016