Tuning pianos is only part of Enrique Rosano's story. The rest is about people.

At 61, he's been Tucson's piano man for 40 years and has more than 1,000 customers.

He tunes the instruments of millionaires, and those with just enough money for their child's music lessons.

Until recently, he cared for 98 Steinway Pianos for the University of Arizona's School of Music.

What he loves about his work isn't just the instrument he says is magical.

He equally cherishes his customers' friendships, and their stories of marriages, new babies and loved ones growing old. He's watched their children grow, many becoming successful adults - teachers and surgeons and engineers who once hung around the family piano, bugging Rosano as he worked.

"The beauty of this is that my clients grew up with my kids and I grew up with their kids," he said.

Rosano worries about his older clients, the ones who are alone and isolated. Some are losing their hearing, he said, but still love to play.

"I'm going to give them 110 percent and that piano is going to sound real nice," he said.

Rosano is a self-taught musician who fell in love with the piano when he was a child.

He quickly learned to decipher sounds by listening to voices in the school hallway.

"I would be in class and could hear people talking in the hallway and I could identify them," he said. "I was developing my discipline without realizing it. To me, it was just a game."

When Rosano started at the UA, his band director at Sunnyside High School made an offer: Tune pianos for the school and earn $300 per semester.

The money covered his tuition, books and dorm fees, as well as food, as he studied chemistry, math and physics.

Piano tuning also helped him pay for the education of his six children.

"Every time I needed money, the pianos were there for me," he said.

Piano teacher Cecilia Whitby said Rosano can "turn the most tired piano into a wonderful instrument."

"And when he's through, he sits down and plays beautiful music," she said.

Concert pianist Norma Zimdahl took Rosano along the last time she bought a piano. She trusts his judgment and cherishes their friendship.

"Sometimes we laugh so much, I have to say, 'Enrique, you're here to tune the piano,' and he says, 'Oh, that's right,' " said Zimdahl, who has known Rosano for the 20 years she's lived in Tucson.

"He's a friend. We've met the family. He's a beautiful human being with a beautiful family."

On StarNet: Find an audio slide show of Enrique Rosano at azstarnet.com/photo

"I'm going to give them 110 percent and that piano is going to sound real nice."

Enrique Rosano, piano tuner extraordinaire

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 806-7754 or pmachelor@azstarnet.com