Piano status provides music department with a high note
After a decade of recognition as an “All-Steinway School,” the university’s music department continues to be among 140 schools worldwide with the designation.
MTSU became the first university in Tennessee to take on the title of “All-Steinway” in 2002.
For the university to receive a ranking of “All-Steinway School,” Steinway pianos must be used in all performance spaces, teaching studios, music classrooms and practice rooms. The program also requires 90 percent of the acoustic pianos be Steinway, with no participation in loaner programs, piano service and maintenance program.
“Becoming an ‘All-Steinway School’ was a huge commitment to our students,” said George Riordan, director of the School of Music. “It indicates that the university takes quality seriously.”
Every piano sees between one to 12 hours of use daily. The two Concert Steinway Grand D models see the most use, with performers using them almost every night and in the 200-plus concerts hosted throughout the year.
The School of Music’s 60 Steinway pianos and designation provides a massive attraction for prospective students and faculty because of the pianos reputation, Riordan said.
However, this requires the university to make an investment. Riordan estimated that their current inventory is valued at approximately $1.7 million.
With the university leading the way, many other schools in Tennessee have become “All-Steinway,” including Belmont University and East Tennessee State University.
The appeal of using these pianos attracts students worldwide.
“In Malaysia, there are only a few Steinways, and in my university, there was only one,” said Elizabeth Chua, a graduate student specializing in collaborative piano. “Here, they are everywhere, and it’s the main reason why I came to this school.”
The pianos are not just for those focused on piano, but are used by every student majoring in music. Using such a high-quality piano provides students with an opportunity to practice and hone their skills on the types of pianos they will use performing outside of school.
Being an ‘All-Steinway School’ piques incoming faculty’s interest in the program, Riordan said. Being in the same company as Julliard, Trinity School (London) and Yale School of Music also does not hurt.
The partnership with Steinway insures that the investment made in these pianos continues to pay dividends. Chris Purdy, university piano technician, attends two workshops a year at the Steinway factory in New York, working hands on with those constructing the pianos. Combined with yearly inspections by Steinway, Purdy keeps the Steinways operating at their expectation level.
“These pianos are like a taxi,” Purdy said. “They get worked hard all day long.”
Photo Credit: AJ Netherland