From pro rider to piano tuner

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An absolute powerhouse road rider, who is retuning her career (Photo: R24)
An absolute powerhouse road rider, who is retuning her career (Photo: R24)
  • Anriette Schoeman is one of the winningest road cyclists in recent history
  • She has used lockdown to pursue her other passion
  • Schoeman hopes to attain qualification as an accredited piano tuner and restorer soon

Anriette Schoeman is one of the most accomplished road cyclists in South Africa. 

Her long and illustrious career includes representing South Africa at the Athens Olympics and three Commonwealth Games. 

Schoeman’s career highlights include eight South African Elite Road cycling championships and the record for the most Cape Town Cycle Tour wins, with seven victories to date.

Understandably the last 18 months have been quiet on the racing front. Schoeman still rides her bike as much as possible but has used this extra time in Port Elizabeth to pursue her other passion, namely piano tuning.

Ride24 sat down with Schoeman to chat about racing, winning and reinventing yourself amidst a pandemic.
road racing
Anriette puts down the watts in a local event (Photo: R24)

With the majority of events being cancelled, how have you kept yourself busy during the last 18 months? 

It is been tough as I love riding and racing my bike. During last years hard lockdown I really had time to think about my future. I still enjoy riding my bike and I am doing a bit of coaching but I realised that I needed to reinvent myself as my career as a professional cyclist won't carry on forever. 

What are your cycling goals these days?

The training and suffering that forms part of the preparation required to race at a high level is such a part of my life that I know no other way. I will keep riding as long as I enjoy it and at this stage, I still feel that I can race for podiums. 
road bike
Although she does race mountain bikes, the road, is Anriette's first love (Photo: R24)

The local mountain biking scene has exploded over the last ten years, was that discipline ever something that interested you? 

I enjoy riding a mountain bike and have done quite a bit of it but I always felt that one needs to specialise in that discipline to compete at a high level. I really love riding my road bike so that specialisation never happened. 

Where did your interest in piano start?

Playing the piano is something that I am passionate about. It is something that I have done longer than cycling and I even took it as a subject up until matric. It is part of my DNA.
road cycling
"This does not sound like my rear hub on the bike?" Anriette learning the finer points from Reon (Photo:R24)

Why the decision to pursue piano tuning as your competitive cycling career winds down?

During hard lockdown last year I contemplated reinventing myself and pondered what I could do in future. Earlier this year, I found a local piano tuner on Facebook and we met for coffee. 

Reon Brown then decided to take me under his wing and mentor me. From the moment I started shadowing him, I knew that I had made the right decision. 

Piano tuning is a scarce skill. In the past 35-years there have only been five piano tuners in the Eastern Cape, so for him to share his knowledge and experience with me is special. 

How does one become a qualified piano tuner?

For the moment I am learning as much as I can from Brown, he is allowing me to gain experience by completing tuning and repairs under his watchful eye. 

There are currently less than 50 piano tuners in South Africa and many are nearing retirement. There is also no facility in South Africa offering formal courses in piano tuning and restoration. 

The Pioneer school in Worcester used to offer a course but they no longer do. My plan is to travel overseas once it is possible in order to gain a formal qualification.
piano cycling
Anriette and Reon, getting ready for a tuning lesson (Photo: R24)

What does the learning experience entail?

You literally need to train your ears, and this only comes with experience. 

Piano tuning is very similar to cycling in this regard, just like it takes hundreds of hours to get to a competitive level, it can take just as long to get your ears perfectly accustomed to recognising the correct note. 

It is a very complex process with each note consisting of three strings that all need to sound exactly the same. Like cycling the process is very focussed and one-dimensional.

Is piano tuning something you would like to do full time?

I have loved cycling from a young age, and have always been competitive. 

Although I have followed structured training programs in my career, sometimes I just ride my bike and if I don't feel like riding I also don't, which is not very often to be honest. 

The day I don't want to ride anymore I will know that I need to do something else and then it will be nice to have the piano tuning skills . 

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