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Dan Mattingly is part scientist and part artist. He’s part technician and part musician. And, he’s making his mark as an in-demand certified piano technician at the age of 26.

The Herrin native, who now lives in Cambria, not only brings out the best in pianos through careful tuning, he also repairs and refurbishes the instruments.

A chance encounter with Dean and Loma Brown at Herrin’s Baldwin Piano and Organ Center set the stage for Mattingly’s venture. Having played piano since the age of 4, he was delivering instruments when the Browns suggested that he learn the craft — one that Dean Brown had first learned years before.

“I can thank Loma for the inspiration and encouragement,” Mattingly recalls.

During 15 months of training, Mattingly apprenticed with Dean Brown. The student says he learned a great deal from his mentor.

“I was able to work alongside Dean and really soak in from him,” he says.

Two years later, Mattingly Piano Service has a fast-growing list of clients, including schools, churches and, of course, those with pianos in their homes. Clients range from river to river and from Mount Vernon south, as well as some in parts of Kentucky and Missouri.

“I enjoy the traveling and I enjoy the work,” he says. “No matter where I go, people are glad to see me, and I get to work in a very relaxed environment.”

Mattingly says he cannot imagine doing anything else, adding that he feels “wired” to work with pianos.

“I think you do need a gift to do this,” he explains. “Sometimes I can feel — or at least I think I can feel — the little hairs in my ears going back and forth as I try to listen so carefully to a note.”

He says each standard tuning takes just under two hours. Once he’s completed his work, he always finishes by playing the instrument.

“Dean calls it ‘rocking the baby.’ You have to play it when you’re done,” says Mattingly, who gains clues from the piano owner’s conversations and décor as to what to play. “Sometimes I’ll play gospel, sometimes jazz or sometimes bluegrass. It’s whatever I feel at the time.”

Then, it’s on to the next piano.

“I really enjoy what I do,” he says. “I love spreading the culture of music throughout Southern Illinois and beyond.”

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