Music enthusiasts keyed up about UT Martin Steinways
Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 9:03 pm
The Messenger 10.28.10
The event sparked a brief impromptu performance as Dr. Elaine Harriss, professor of music, and Micheal Singleton, one of her students, showed what piano enthusiasts do when they see a new piano.
Dr. Harriss, University of Tennessee at Martin Department of Music interim chair, and Singleton, of Dyersburg, were among the group of donors, administrators, faculty, staff and students who attended a ceremony for the university’s All Steinway Campaign announcement. The focus was the delivery of two grand pianos and six vertical faculty studio and student practice room pianos, part of the campaign to become an All Steinway institution being funded primarily by private donations.
Someone asked Dr. Harriss prior to the ceremony about the importance of the Steinway distinction.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘What is the finest piano made,’ and he said, ‘Steinway.’”
Dr. Harriss said she added that “if it’s the finest instrument, that’s what this school wants for its students.”
At the culmination of the campaign, UT Martin will become one of more than 110 conservatories, colleges and universities worldwide and the third public institution in Tennessee with the distinction as an All Steinway institution. Students in these institutions perform and are taught only on Steinway pianos.
Dr. Jerald Ogg, UT Martin vice chancellor for academic affairs, who represented Chancellor Tom Rakes at the ceremony, noted the designation will help recruit and retain the best students and faculty. The distinction of All Steinway, he said, “is about changing students’ lives.”
In introducing and expressing appreciation to Bill Blankenship, who chairs the All Steinway steering committee, Ogg said, “You don’t just end up as an All Steinway School.” Blankenship and his wife, Roberta, of Sandestin, Fla., along with Dr. and Mrs. Robert Gibson of Union City, attended the ceremony and signed the Steinway grand pianos they donated as part of the campaign. Other donors, including Newell and Bettie Graham of Union City, Ed Williamson of Pensacola, Fla., and Dr. Harriss, along with additional faculty, staff and students, signed the vertical pianos.
“This university has had many great days,” said Blankenship. “I put this one right up there at the top.”
Noting that one or two people don’t make a project such as this happen, Blankenship thanked other individuals who have donated to the campaign.
“These individuals have also committed to make contributions to this All Steinway school, ” he said.
Blankenship praised the foresight of the music department in reconditioning Steinways that positioned the school for the announcement.
“Bob and I are so happy to be able to put our names on a Steinway concert grand piano,” said Virginia Gibson. “We also are pleased to give this in honor of Michael Yandell, who is a senior music major at UT Martin. We have known Michael many years at Union City First Christian Church, where he has played the piano.”
“I am very thankful for the investment in UT Martin’s Department of Music to convert the program into an ‘All Steinway’ school,” said Andrew Moore, a piano and chemistry double major from South Fulton. “By providing students with the finest pianos available, this shows the department’s commitment to artistry and musicianship. As a piano student in the department, having top-quality pianos at my disposal will certainly enhance my musical abilities and allow me to critique my skills at the piano. Other students in the department will benefit by being accompanied by superior, well-maintained pianos.
“Overall, this investment will improve the quality of the UT Martin Department of Music and will allow the program to promote a higher level of artistry among the students,” he added.
During the past seven years, the UT Martin Department of Music has returned nine of the university’s Steinway seven-foot grand pianos to “like new” condition. A nine-foot Steinway D and a Steinway Boston were purchased during 2009-10. The Steinway D was signed by Henry E. Steinway and housed in Carnegie Hall for five years as part of the Steinway and Sons Concert and Artists Program.
The replacement of 18 faculty studio and practice room uprights will need to be purchased to complete the project.
Following the arrival and assembly of the pianos, there was an evening program with a performance of Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano” and other pieces by Dr. Harriss and UT Martin students.
Dr. Elaine Harriss, Micheal Singleton, Steinway pianos, University of Tennessee at Martin