Passing it Down
One of the great pleasures in life is teaching your craft to someone genuinely interested in learning and capable of applying the lessons. Someone who is eager to adopt the value and create their unique artistic techniques and hopefully, one day, pass it along to the next generation.
In 2002 Vintage Vibe was reaching the point where I needed more help. Vintage Vibe had initially started as a one-man and a van company in the ’90s in NYC, along with subcontractors for more complicated electronic repairs. As the company continued to expand, it became apparent that Vintage Vibe needed more help. In 2003 I enlisted Frankie Carroll to help with the ongoing repairs, house calls, and Tolex jobs. Soon, that was not enough help, and I needed to add one more person. In 2004 my wife Janet was working for Starbucks out of necessity to afford health insurance for our growing family. One of her co-workers had a boyfriend who hung around the coffee shop; my wife got to know him as a good guy. He was going to college studying music, and I heard that he was a musician, perfect for what we do. Janet asked him if he would like to check out Vintage Vibe and see what we were doing as a company.
I remember this super skinny kid with glasses and a joy for life showing up to meet me for a job, and he seemed sweet and capable, which was what I needed. His name was Adam Kaniper. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he would soon become my leading man and close confidant at Vintage Vibe.
Adam worked for me part-time at first because of his school schedule, but during those early days, it was apparent that this kid had burgeoning natural skills that Vintage Vibe needed. Frankie, at the time, was doing most of the Tolex work. At the same time, I handled the bulk of piano work, including everything from Rhodes and Wurlitzers, to Hohner Clavinets and Pianets, to combo organs and Leslies. It wasn’t long before Frankie and Adam were double-teaming Tolex jobs for our professional customers. We had a lot of fun together, laughing, telling stories and playing music. Adam’s work was not only the cleanest we had done to date but also the fastest. I started teaching Adam all that I knew up to the finer points of electric piano tuning and voicing and introducing him to the vintage electric piano world. It soon became apparent once again that this kid had mechanical skills that proved undoubtedly to be a significant asset. We could now start doing two or more repairs at once at Vintage Vibe, which meant growth and offering a faster turnaround to our customers. At this point, we had pianos piling up deep from NYC, and Adam was the key to keeping us on schedule.
Digging in Deep
Adam graduated from college the following year and worked full-time at Vintage Vibe. He started taking on more varied work and dug in deep, learning his craft the best way you can, in the trenches on the front line. He learned by trial and error, repetition, and a desire to be better. Repairing and troubleshooting with your hands and intuition well before the internet and YouTube told you how to do everything. In retrospect, I don’t think a day has passed since he started at Vintage Vibe that he has not worked on a Wurlitzer.
Adam has been the backbone of Vintage Vibe for so long now, and I can barely remember Vintage Vibe without him. He is an unsung hero, the quiet guy in the background, out of sight in his fabrication/ repair room away from the building floor, where he likes it. Adam has a hand in all fabrication that we do. For those who enter our shop through the delivery entrance, Adam is the first person you see and will always greet you with a smile and a helping hand.
Adam is the Wurlitzer guru whose exceptional work has always surpassed the expectations of even our most discerning clients. He has single-handedly written the modern book on Wurlitzer Electric Piano modifications, restoration, and repairs. No one, I mean no one, can work an action like Adam.
His talents don’t stop there. As a master woodworker, Adam can design/fabricate, and assemble any design asked of him. From the very beginning of the Vintage Vibe piano, he was responsible for many of the part fabrications and assembly fittings. Adam is the leading builder of every Vintage Vibe Vibanet ever made. Adam could teach a master class in Hohner Clavinet set up and regulation.
He has performed an estimated 750 Wurlitzer restorations, 300 Clavinet/ Vibanet builds and repairs, and has been involved in 500 Vintage Vibe Piano builds. He is the master behind our sought-after custom piano shells. He has cosmetically restored many museum-quality Vox Continentals and close to 100 vintage tube amplifier cabinets. He has also built by hand hundreds of Wurlitzer pedals, as well as machined drilled and bored hundreds of Rhodes pedals from cast aluminum. He has designed or co-designed everything structural or mechanical on the Vibanet. Additionally, he is a luthier for all guitar setup work we offer at Vintage Vibe and has unlocked mysteries on the Rhodes piano action that helped us identify one of its inherent issues.
Adam Kaniper is a true master craftsman in every sense of the word. Our brothers at Vintage Vibe honor you with our highest respect and love for your craft, loyalty, and friendship.
The Cycle Continues
In the spirit of passing the knowledge to the next generation, Adam has mentored Chris Flynn for the past five years, Adam has bestowed his expertise on to Flynn, and now Chris can hold his own with the best of them on Rhodes mechanical and tolex work. Note: Chris is currently teaching the newest Vintage Vibe team members the art of piano repair and restoration. The cycle continues.
It is with this honorable mention that we highlight a man of accomplishment who may otherwise go without ceremony.
With love and respect,