Mr. Piano Man
Don Diller '65
City income tax auditor
Math and music have been integral parts of Don Diller's life. And in the last few years, he has found a way to bring them closer together.
He majored in math at Bluffton, and the subject has been central to a career path that has included teaching and other jobs in computer programming, income tax preparation and, since 2006, income tax auditing for the city of Toledo.
On the musical side, the Pandora, Ohio, native started taking piano lessons in first grade and organ lessons as an eighth grader, taught by longtime Bluffton faculty member Otto Holtkamp. He has played the organ at eight churches and, since 2011, has entertained employees and visitors at One Government Center, Toledo's city building, on the piano.
Working with numbers.
Diller, whose parents and two siblings also graduated from Bluffton, initially followed his roommate and fellow math major Ned Scheer to Miami, where they taught at a private boys' school run by another Bluffton alumnus, Luther Sommers. There, he remembers, "I learned the classroom is not my ball of wax."
He stayed for two years before returning to northwest Ohio, where, at Bowling Green State University, "I met the computer," he says. "It didn't talk back to me." He ultimately became a computer programmer for nearly 20 years, then worked at H&R Block before taking his current job in Toledo eight years ago.
A musical avocation.
Studying with Holtkamp and later with Steve Jacoby at Bluffton, "I enjoyed all the different sounds I could get out of the organ," he says, calling it "a variety that intrigues me to this day."
But he also kept his interest in the piano. Last year was his 27th playing for the Toledo Metroparks' annual holiday open house at the Wildwood Preserve Manor House. And an opportunity to play during breaks at work presented itself two years ago when Toledo's Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Society donated 10 pianos citywide, "and one of them happened to land at the government center, in the lobby," he says.
After playing once, Diller found the piano locked when he returned a second time. Reminding the building's managers that the pianos had been donated for public enjoyment, he was told that "if you want to be in charge, here's the key," he recalls.
Also playing after work, while waiting for the bus that takes him home, Diller mixes old standards, seasonal songs, classical pieces and Broadway show tunes.
Last October, new building management planned to move the piano to the 13th floor, home to a break room, a cafeteria and, Diller points out, two TVs that are always on. "We had a rule in my parents' house—if the TV's on, the piano doesn't get played," and vice versa, he says, explaining that he didn't intend to play if the piano was relocated.
Others also wanted it to stay in the lobby, including building guards and the Lucas County Commissioners, who work in the building and had dubbed Diller "Mr. Piano Man" after he began playing in 2011. About 300 people signed a petition asking that the piano not be moved—a request ultimately honored by management.
And his key is always nearby, on the same chain with his ID card for building access. "That's my key to the city," he says