We have exciting news! After a successful fundraising campaign, the Department of Music’s brand new Steinway piano has arrived.
In 2016, Gail Korpan and Joanne Robarts made a donation to the Department of Music in support of their family’s love of music, and to honour both their parents, John and Marie Smulski. After careful consideration, the Department decided it would be beneficial to purchase a new concert grand piano for Convocation Hall. Introducing a new piano to Con Hall will give students and faculty members access to the highest quality instruments. Guest artists would also shine on a fantastic piano. Therefore, they used this wonderful donation to initiate a larger fundraising program called 88 Keys.
The response to this fundraising initiative was overwhelming and in less than a year the money for a new grand piano was raised.
Last October the Department of Music Chair, Dr. William Street and U of A piano professor, Dr. Jacques Després, traveled to the Steinway and Sons factory in Hamburg, Germany.
Steinway and Sons has two factories, one in New York and one in Hamburg. While the pianos in both locations are made in exactly the same way, musicians often feel there’s a difference in musical quality between New York and Hamburg Steinways. Although several musicians prefer the experience of performing on a New York Steinway, our piano faculty prefer Hamburg Steinways. We. Therefore, decided to purchase our piano from the factory in Germany.
Upon arriving at the Steinway and Sons factory in Hamburg, the Department had already decided they would be purchasing a Steinway Model D; a full sized concert grand piano. In the factory showroom, nine Steinway Model D’s were available for our department representatives to choose.
Dr. Jacques Després and pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy took turns playing each Model D in the showroom and carefully considered the musical quality of each one. For Dr. Després, being in a room full of so many amazing pianos felt like being “somebody addicted to sugar working in a chocolate factory.” We asked Dr. Després what qualities he was looking for in our new piano. His response was:
“A great instrument will sound different when played by different people. If a piano sounds the same for all performers, it means it is very limited in character and potential for each performer. With a good piano, the instrument will give you what you ask of it but with a great piano the potential is truly amazing. This new piano can teach us a lot if we get to know it and has the ability to create a personal experience for performers, as well as for the audience.”
Our Steinway Model D was loaded onto a plane shortly after its purchase and arrived at Convocation Hall in less than a month!
Weighing nearly 1000 lbs, it took several people to move this massive instrument onto the Con Hall stage.
On May 13th, the Department of Music will be hosting an inaugural piano concert to celebrate the arrival of this fantastic new instrument. World renowned pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy, who helped choose our new piano, will be performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at this celebratory concert. Other featured musicians include faculty members, Dr. Jacques Després (piano), Dr. Patricia Tao (piano), Raphael Hoekman (cello), and Robert Uchida (violin).
More information about Celebrating 88 Keys can be found on the concert’s showpage. Please join us for an afternoon of celebration and fantastic music!