Meet the Piano Man

by Tim Froberg

Bill Steinert chuckles whenever people call him the Piano Man.

“Hey, that’s not a bad reference,” joked Steinert, referring to pop superstar Billy Joel who is best known for that nickname. “I’m his age and now I’ve got his hairline.”

Steinert plays the piano, too, and quite well. The 59-year-old Oshkosh native has been performing piano shows and popular sing-alongs for the past 38 years at George’s Steak House where he splits weekend duties with fellow musician Bruce Koestner.

Steinert grew up in a musical family, was introduced to the piano at the age of three, and has been performing since he was 15. But the piano was always a second gig for Steinert. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and UW-Milwaukee graduate taught English at Oshkosh West High School for 30 years, while also assisting in the counseling department. He is currently retired from full-time work but teaches college writing and research methods at Marion University.

What’s your most requested song?

“‘Piano Man.’ Every group that comes in from the dining room is like, ‘Hey, do you know … I’m like, ‘Yes,  I do.’ I still enjoy it even though I’ve done it so many times I could do it in my sleep.”’

Is there a particular song you play that you dread?

“I don’t know if there is a specific song. It’s more of a thing where someone may say, ‘Do you know anything by Poison?’ Or it might be some other 90’s hair band. I just kind of roll my eyes and steer them in another direction.”

What do you listen to?

“I like groups doing new things with old ideas merged into them — like Pink Martini. They’re phenomenal musicians. My daughter likes alternative music, and she’ll go into my online account and put something on there that she wants me to learn. She keeps me current.”

Any personal favorites you enjoy playing?

“I do a shortened version of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ that I really like. As far as singing, anything by Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett.”