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In the mid 1970s, Fred Odenheimer had a dream. Fred¡¯s dream was for piano technicians and builders from all over the world to have the chance to meet and become friends. Fred lives in California, but he grew up in Europe and knew many European piano builders. In California Fred had a piano store where he sold Knight Pianos from England and Yamaha Pianos from Japan. Through Yamaha Fred was able to become friends with piano builders and technicians from Asia.
As you all know, Kenzo Utsunomiya worked for Yamaha. Yamaha sent some of their best technicians here to the United States to help teach American technicians the Yamaha approach to servicing their pianos. Normally these technicians would stay here for four years. If they were very good they might stay for six years. Kenzo stayed for thirteen years!!

Fred and Kenzo met and they became very good friends. Kenzo shared Fred¡¯s dream of forming an international organization to bring piano people together from all over the world. This was in 1978. The first IAPBT meeting was held here in the United States in 1979. At this first meeting, two men shared the presidency. Fred Odenheimer, from the United States, was co-president with Tabuo Tanaka from Japan. At first only the Japanese and American organizations belonged to IAPBT, but soon it would start growing. Next Korea joined, and slowly we added more and more organizations and individuals. Slowly but surely IAPBT grew to be the wonderful organization we have today.

During all of these years, one man might have been called ¡°Mr. IAPBT¡±, and that was Kenzo. Whenever IAPBT met, anywhere in the world, Kenzo was there. Kenzo is a hard man to describe. It is hard to describe how friendly he was, how much he loved life, and how much he loved IAPBT. Just to be with Kenzo made you feel good and happy. Kenzo¡¯s laugh and smile filled a room with cheer and friendship. Kenzo had a wonderful way of bringing people together.

Kenzo was an excellent piano tuner and technician. He was also a wonderful teacher. He was a very strict teacher; you had to do it right! Often he would teach piano skills and life skills together. When asked about how far to go in regulating he would answer, When you know where you are going, it is easier to just go there then to stop short.¡± And this was how he always viewed IAPBT. He always had a goal for IAPBT to be the best organization in the world for bringing piano people together and he always worked hard to help us accomplish this goal.

When there were problems, he said they were like tuning. In tuning the second overtone is often stronger and it makes it difficult to hear the overtones you would like to hear. Instead of fighting them, he would say to ¡°make them your friends.¡± And this was also his philosophy in life. When problems would arise and people were disagreeing, he would say to ¡°make them your friends.¡±

While Kenzo was very good at most things, he wasn¡¯t perfect. For instance, while he could line up all the parts in a piano action and regulate it perfectly, when driving a car, Kenzo never could park it straight in a parking space. He always ended up with his car parked crooked. I guess that was a pretty small fault.

Shortly before Kenzo died, IAPBT was struggling. He wrote to me and said, ¡°I hope IAPBT does not die in my lifetime.¡± I told him that I thought IAPBT would recover and do very well. I am very sorry that Kenzo is not with us today to see this wonderful gathering we have here and the plans that we have for the future. He would be very happy. I thank all of you for helping to make IAPBT be the fulfillment of Fred and Kenzo¡¯s dream from so many years ago.

In conclusion, I wish to thank both Fred Odenheimer and Laroy Edwards for sharing their memories of Kenzo with me. And I will close with a thought that Laroy shared with me. ¡°Kenzo was the way people were meant to be invented. He was the perfect pattern for how we all should be.¡±

Kenzo, we thank you for your friendship, and for all that you have done for us and IAPBT, you will be missed, but never forgotten.

Written and presented by Ed Hilbert at the IAPBT Banquet in Kansas City, June 15, 2005