'All-Steinway School' standard of excellence almost in reach

The School of Music almost has attained a standard of excellence it has sought since 2003.

Dror Biran performs on a Steinway in Margaret Comstock Concert Hall.

It is six pianos shy of being an All-Steinway School — a designation schools receive when at least 90 percent of its pianos in student practice rooms, teaching studios and classrooms and on the concert stage — are either Steinway or Steinway-manufactured Essex or Boston pianos.

Steinway “is the cream of the crop,” said Dror Biran, assistant piano professor at UofL and international prize winner and soloist. “It allows me the freedom to create a lot of colors in sound. Its special touch makes it easier for me to perform and feel comfortable on stage and open the door to interpret the music.”

“No other instrument can compare: the Steinway stands above all.”

When the School of Music began working toward its goal of becoming an All-Steinway School, it “had an aging inventory of 105 acoustic pianos including our concert and recital hall instruments that needed replacement and/or overhaul,” said music Dean Christopher Doane.

Through university funds, donations and the help of Ron Gist at the local Steinway dealer Gist Piano Center, the School of Music was able to add six new Steinways and seven new Boston instruments for classrooms in 2004 — marking the first piano purchases since 1985. Since then, the school has purchased more replacement instruments, including a 9-foot Steinway concert grand Model D for performances at Margaret Comstock Concert Hall and a Steinway Grand Model B for concerts at Malcolm Bird Recital Hall and Comstock Hall.

The school also has replaced upright pianos in 75 practice rooms, frequently the most overused instruments in the school, and placed some donated and rebuilt Steinway grand pianos in the practice rooms that are designated for piano performance and principal students. Faculty offices and teaching studios have been refitted with a combination of new and rebuilt Steinway instruments.

“When completed the entire school, university and community can appreciate and share in the benefits,” Doane said. “New generations of students will have good instruments available to facilitate their music studies, our faculty will have wonderful instruments on which to teach and perform and our community will enjoy the opportunity to hear great performances from wonderful performers in our concert halls for many years to come.”

The School of Music will benefit from a Sept. 1 sale at Gist Piano Center. Some of the proceeds from the sale will go toward the school’s piano fund. When the School of Music reaches its goal, UofL will be the first institution in Kentucky to achieve distinction as an All-Steinway School.