WMU revels in 'All-Steinway' status for 100-year-old music school

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Photo of Steinway piano.KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University's celebrated School of Music will hit its 100th anniversary this year as the first university in Michigan to be named an All-Steinway Music School.

With 118 of the world-renowned pianos gracing the stages, classrooms and practice studios of the school, University officials are already seeing the $2 million investment by private donors have an impact, as applicants to its highly selective music programs respond positively to the quality commitment the Steinway designation demonstrates.

"Prospective students note the School of Music's Steinway piano inventory, and the new instruments make quite an impression, especially on those visiting the school for the first time," says Dr. David J. Colson, director of the School of Music. "The new pianos have become a point of pride for many of our current students. They are especially appreciative to have instruments on which to practice and perform that inspire their growth as musicians."

WMU joins just over 150 top international music schools to have earned the All-Steinway designation, which requires that 90 percent of the school's pianos be designed by Steinway & Sons. The world's All-Steinway Schools include Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, Yale School of Music, the Curtis Institute, the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, James Madison University, and Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, School of Piano. WMU is the first university in Michigan to earn the designation.

As an All-Steinway school, WMU is entitled to use the Steinway logo on its website and in recruitment materials and can use Steinway Hall in New York City for an annual event for alumni. 

Culmination of fundraising efforts

Fundraising to be an All-Steinway program began five years ago, according to Dr. Margaret Merrion, dean of WMU's College of Fine Arts, and the first pianos acquired through the campaign arrived in late 2008. The timeline for completion was driven by the School of Music's 100th anniversary celebration, which is now in progress and will culminate with a series of special fall concerts, including an Oct. 13 piano concert that will honor the All-Steinway designation. That event is expected to include a formal presentation by representatives of Steinway & Sons.

"Our mission is to give our students a first-rate education, and that requires first-class instruments, high-quality learning opportunities and outstanding faculty-artists," says Merrion. "The All-Steinway program was a major objective in our strategic map for distinction."

The funding to achieve the designation came from a variety of donors, Merrion says, but two local foundations—the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation and the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation—were among early significant donors and provided impetus for the fundraising campaign.

About Steinway & Sons

Steinway & Sons, which celebrated its 160th anniversary earlier this month, was founded in New York City by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinway (later Anglicized to Henry E. Steinway) in 1853. Steinway & Sons developed the modern piano with revolutionary designs and created 127 patented inventions to perfect the piano-making process. By the turn of the century, the company was crafting thousands of pianos in its Astoria, New York and Hamburg, Germany factories. Today, Steinway & Sons crafts approximately 2,500 pianos a year and is the choice of 97 percent of piano soloists performing at major venues worldwide.

About the WMU School of Music

Music has been an important element of a WMU education since shortly after the University's founding in 1903. In 1913, music became the first discipline to be organized into its own department at WMU. Today, some 400 students annually audition for just 90 openings in the highly competitive school, which is known internationally and boasts faculty and student ensembles that tour and perform at the world's top venues.