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Posted October 29, 2011 | comments Leave a comment

SU wants to go 'All Steinway'

$3 million campaign will seek rare status for university's conservatory

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University wants its conservatory to go "All Steinway."

Officials on Friday announced the university has started a $3 million campaign to seek the designation -- bestowed on only six other conservatories in the United States. In order to achieve the distinction from Steinway & Sons, at least 90 percent of the conservatory's pianos must come from the company. Pianos can be used in class and practice rooms, faculty studios and concert spaces, according to a news release issued by the university.

At the announcement, several piano students and professors took turns performing on the Steinway Model A's and B's to a standing-room-only crowd.

"It's going to transform everything," John O'Conor, Irish pianist and distinguished artist-in-residence at the university, said after the event.

Performance major Alexander Johnson played one of the pianos on display at the event. He also joined O'Conor and six other pianists to perform Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and, as an encore, the composer's "Peer Gynt Suite."

The university received 17 pianos from Steinway, including a model K-52 upright. The entire initiative will bring a total of 87 Steinway pianos to the university. Some students cheered when Shenandoah Conservatory Dean Michael Stepniak told them where each of the recent acquisitions would stay.

A group of students and faculty visited the company's factory in Queens, N.Y., on Oct. 14, to see how they make the instruments and to test different models.

Jazz percussion major Nathan McDowell said after the event that he enjoyed hearing the performance and hopes to play the new pianos.

"It's pretty prestigious," said McDowell, also minoring in piano. "I don't have the tuned ear that a lot of the piano majors do, but it sounds great to me."

Piano major Madalyn Newell also lauds the effort to bring more Steinways to the conservatory.

"It's really beneficial for me, as a piano major, being able to practice on such an amazing instrument," Newell said. "I mean you're able to hear what it's going to actually sound like and how your technique and how each key feels on your fingers, especially with the A's that are gonna be in the practice room."

With Steinways both in the studio and in the practice room, Newell said the sound and feel of either piano would remain more consistent than playing two distinctly different instruments.

"It'll also give me more incentive to practice on such an amazing instrument," Newell said. "Practicing on a Steinway? I mean, it's kind of insane."

The distinction of All Steinway also may attract more students and help the university, Newell said.

"Also, advertising that we're an All Steinway school, we're just gonna keep getting students who are better and better and upping their status on our performances."

Newell noted that, as a junior, she still will have opportunities to play the Steinways.

"During the past three years that I've been here we've acquired John O'Conor and then these Steinways, it's an amazing leap and it's exciting to see what's gonna happen in the next couple years," Newell said.

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