Charles T. Giunta, 90, tuned pianos for entertainers

November 24, 1997|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Charles Thomas Giunta, who tuned pianos for some of the biggest names in show business, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease Thursday at home in Rosedale. He was 90.

Born and raised in Baltimore, he quit school at 14 to help support his family and joined the William Knabe Piano Factory on the site of what is now Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"I wanted to learn everything, from the wood out," he said in llTC 1986 interview in a community newspaper. "I wanted to know a piano from the mill to the cabinet, from the first stage to the last."

Eventually he went into business for himself, tuning pianos for several generations of Baltimoreans as well as for celebrities performing here, among them Duke Ellington, Sammy Kaye, Rosa Ponselle and Victor Borge.

He tuned pianos for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and for Liberace, whenever the performer was in town. He made such an impression that the bejeweled pianist sought Mr. Giunta's talents before concerts as far away as New Jersey.

Several times, during President Gerald R. Ford's administration, he was called upon to tune pianos in the White House. He also tuned a church piano before a Baltimore rally for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Giunta tuned pianos for well-to-do families in Roland Park and for immigrants in East Baltimore, who could barely afford third-hand instruments. Church pianos, and those at convents, he often tuned free.

In 1935, he began repairing pianos -- 1,200 in all -- for the city's public schools, a job he held for more than three decades. Weekends, he led his band, the Rivierians, which played at local weddings and country clubs during the 1930s and 1940s.

Mr. Giunta was a 1929 graduate of Maryland Institute, College of Art, where he studied architecture.

During World War II, he worked as a draftsman for the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River, designing the wartime camouflage that covered the site. To planes flying overhead, the plant resembled a forest.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation, 5212 McCormick Ave. in Rosedale.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, the former Linda Palmieri; two sons, Joseph M. Giunta of Kingsville and Charles T. Giunta Jr. of Orlando, Fla.; four sisters, Annette Persico of Towson, and Josie Rossi, Jennie Armetta and Lucy Woerner, all of Joppa; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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