Music department to show off new pianos Sept. 28

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Angel Ukwitegyetse

Noah Seigler, music education senior, practices on the new pianos.

To thank the Perkins-Prothro Foundation for their $1.1 million grant which allowed the music department to buy all new pianos, the faculty and students will hold a ceremony and demonstration of the new equipment Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

“Mr. Prothro is a fan of the fine arts, being a pianist himself, and the pianos we had, had gone past their effective teaching age,” Ruth Morrow, Bolin distinguished chair of piano and professor of music, said.

The grant came earlier in the year from the foundation and was split between 25 Steinway pianos and 15 Yamaha pianos. The Yamaha pianos were selected and purchased from the Metroplex Pianos of Dallas. All but five Steinway pianos were also bought in Dallas at the Steinway Hall. The remaining pianos were purchased from the Steinway headquarters in Queens, New York.

Martin Camacho, dean of Fain College of Fine Arts, Morrow and one piano student travelled to Queens to select the pianos. This included a trip through the Steinway production facility where they were able to witness the production process of a Steinway piano from start to finish. The group’s trip through the production facility will be shown alongside the ceremony. Spring 2018 mass communication graduate Jenna Horn and senior Morgan Haire produced a video documenting the group’s trip through the production facility which will be shown at the ceremony.

Seigler playing piano

Angel Ukwitegyetse
Aaron Johnson, piano senior, plays on the new pianos.

Morrow said when discussing which pianos to buy with Camacho, the main question was “Do we want to become an all Steinway school?” The answer was no.

“It’s not real world to only play Steinways because you won’t have the best of the best wherever you go,” Morrow said.

Morrow said while the Steinways may be the best for concerts, the Yamahas are further ahead when it comes to teaching ability. The Yamaha pianos that were purchased are acoustic pianos, yet have the ability to record in real time. A student can plug in a USB to record themselves playing, then take the same USB to another piano and have it play the exact same piece. She said this is only half of the best part of the Yamahas, as they record not only audibly, but physically as well.

“While it audibly plays the same piece, it also does physically. The keys move and press down to the exact amount you did when you were playing on the other piano,” Morrow said.

Morrow said this allows the students to be able to move from piano to piano and still learn from the exact same piece. A student can even have a professor play the piece for them then be able to physically watch the keys and pedals move seeing how to play the piece whenever they need to, which is one of the best teaching tools available.

According to Camacho, the department was desperately in need of new pianos.

“One in particular still being used in the classroom was from 1922,” Camacho said. “The rest averaged 40 to 50 years old.”

By Camacho’s standards, the pianos had lived past their days of being not only affective teaching tools, but proper pianos. He said he likes to compare them to something more relatable for everyone- cars.

“If you go to buy a car and it is 30 years old, you know it is probably not in the best condition, as well as not being as technically advanced as some of the other pianos available,” Camacho said.

With more than 6,000 different moving pieces in a piano, being played for so long can cause considerable wear on a piano, Camacho said. Receiving the grant allowing them to purchase new and improved pianos was a boost to the department in their eyes.

“Steinways are one of, if not the highest quality pianos someone can buy,” Morrow said.

One of the new Steinways purchased with the grant money is the new concert piano used in Akin Auditorium. While the Steinways are concert pianos, they are also used in the classroom along with the Yamahas.  Morrow said while the Yamahas may be better for their recording ability, it is also nice to be able to practice on what would be played at a concert on the Steinways. Camacho said that it is important to focus on the needs of the students for educational purposes with the Yamahas, but also is necessary to get the high end concert pianos in the Steinways.

Horn was one of the members of the trip to Queens, New York,  to select the grand pianos from Steinway’s headquarters. She and Haire filmed and put together the video to be shown at Friday’s event.

“I don’t know a lot about pianos, but it was incredible to see the process of how they are made,” Horn said.

The video includes footage from the group’s trip to Queens, as well as their tour throughout the production facility, showing some insight to the production that some viewers may not be aware of.

THE EVENT

When: Friday, Sept. 28

Open House: 6:30 p.m.

Ceremony: 7:30 p.m. in Fain Fine Arts C-Wing

What You’ll See: 

  • Ceremony thanking Perkins-Prothro Foundation
  • Video showing visit to Steinway headquarters
  • Live performance from Martin Comacho, Ruth Morrow and various students

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the students in the photographs. The names are now correct. The Wichitan apologizes for the errors.

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