Pittsburgh Chapter
In memory of Frank Balistreri

Frank Balistreri

Feb. 21, 1960 - July 10, 2013

(edited obituary originally written by Michelle Hackman of the Pgh Post-Gazette)

   Frank Balistreri, a colleague & friend to members of the local PTG chapter, died this past July.  He was 53.

    Frank joined the Piano Technicians Guild back in 2004.  In 2009, he was elected the secretary and newsletter editor for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the PTG.   He initiated his 4-year post as the secretary by upgrading the chapter’s website, which he developed using GoDaddy.com programming tools.

    In September 2011, Frank was hired as the Pittsburgh Public Schools' in-house piano technician, tuning the district's many pianos and refurbishing old ones for continued use.  It was not much longer that Frank was diagnosed with lung cancer.   He also opened his own business five years ago, Upscale Music near Oakwood Park on Noblestown Road, where he would sell restored pianos and custom guitars, and offer repairs and music lessons.

    A Pittsburgh native who lived in Oakwood, he was known to his family members and friends in the Pittsburgh chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild as a brilliant, warm man who dedicated his time -- if sometimes obsessively -- to projects and community service efforts.

    In late 2005, soon after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana shoreline, Mr. Balistreri encouraged members of the PTG chapter to round up old pianos from the Pittsburgh area and refurbish them for use in New Orleans churches that had been destroyed. With a meager $2,500 budget, he publicized the effort and rounded up 25 pianos, which the Guild repaired and shipped down the Mississippi River.

    Frank was a former information technology executive who helped build the telephone systems of several Pittsburgh corporations.   His older brother, Jim Balistreri of Rochester Hills, Mich., recalled that his brother approached all of his pursuits with "intensity," from the speed with which he learned to play the piano as a child to his dedication at overhauling the information technology systems at Alcoa and U.S. Steel, where he worked before switching careers to pursue piano-tuning full time.

   Since childhood, Mr. Balistreri harbored a fascination for music and the instruments that made it. He first picked up the violin in fourth grade, quickly mastering it and then moved on to the guitar, the bass, the drums, and, of course, the piano. By the time he was a teenager, his brother said, Mr. Balistreri could play all but the horn instruments.

   "He was never really interested in horn instruments," Jim explained. "I guess he wanted to be able to talk or sing while playing."

   In the late '70s, Mr. Balistreri enrolled at Robert Morris University to study information technology, a degree that would propel him into a 20-year career of rebuilding the telephone systems of several major companies. Those jobs suited his meticulous nature -- he would begin by combing through a system's underlying computer code, identifying long strings of encryption that could be condensed or eliminated.

   "He was excited by computers -- they were brand-new in the '80s, and they came easy to him," Jim said. "He liked trying to figure out what the issue was."

   Still, throughout his career in I.T., Mr. Balistreri kept one foot in music, playing guitar on several albums produced by local bands and performing jazz piano numbers at the Shiloh Grill on Mount Washington.

   "He has a natural talent. He could play any song by ear, just by listening to a song and playing it," said Randy Mangus, our current chapter VP and former President . "He was pretty much MENSA material."

    In 2011, Mr. Balistreri presented Jim's son with a custom-designed guitar that bore a carved Navy Seal insignia. Jim's son had recently been named to the prestigious special forces unit, and his Uncle Frank intended to ask a famous guitarist to play it so that it could then fetch a large donation for the Navy Seals in an auction.   However, he soon grew too ill to pursue this, and his nephew inherited the guitar as his own.