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Brenau launches initiative to get Steinway pianos
University working with piano company to raise money for new instruments
Brenau University student Mayuko Kawai practices on one of the pianos that will be replaced by a Steinway piano. - photo by Tom Reed

Donate to the All-Steinway initiative at Brenau

Monetary donations may be sent to:
Matt Thomas, vice president of external relations
Brenau University Office of Development
500 Washington Street SE, Gainesville, GA 30511

Please make checks payable to Brenau University and mark them for the All-Steinway initiative. For more information on the initiative, visit the website.


When Brenau University music majors take the stage next year, they'll be playing Mozart and Bach on world famous pianos.

The university is embarking on an initiative to become an All-Steinway school, replacing most of its nearly 30 pianos with top-of-the-line instruments made by the Long Island City, N.Y.-based Steinway & Sons, according to a news release.

"By converting everything to all the Steinway products we get the recognition of being one of the few (All-Steinway schools) in the nation," said Emmie Howard, a Brenau alumna and chairwoman of Brenau's Board of Advisors. "It would give us that prestige to not only help recruit new students but work with the community on the plays and events on Brenau's campus."

More than 100 colleges, universities and conservatories nationwide adopted the All-Steinway initiative, including Julliard in New York City, the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Spelman College and Columbus State University, according to the news release.

At least 90 percent of the university's pianos must be Steinway for the school to receive the All-Steinway moniker, Howard said.

Replacing the pianos will cost about $1.5 million total: between $12,000 and $20,000 for practice pianos and possibly more than $100,000 for concert grand pianos.

"We do have a few that are in good enough condition we can hang on and use, but there hasn't been an upgrade in our music department for decades," Howard said.

"One of my close friends was a musical theater major. One of the reasons she came to Brenau was the theater program was so strong, but she would always to Atlanta to practice singing because she felt the instruments were not up to par."

The pianos range in age from 20 to 80 years old, said Barbara Steinhaus, chair of the music department.

Originally the music department was housed in an older building near the center of campus. The rooms in the building were controlled by radiator heating, which was dry and affected the way the pianos were maintained. Age and improper care did a number on the instruments.

Piano strings must be kept tight to keep the notes' pitch, and older pegs can't do the job well, Steinhaus said. The heat in the old building made the piano wood overly dry and more prone to cracking.

"Last fall we were planning to have a concert at Pearce Auditorium and two things on the grand piano broke. We were going to have to have a tuner sit backstage and come out every so often and tune it," said Ben Leaptrott, assistant professor of music at Brenau.

"These pianos have served there purpose and have served it well, but these pianos are just showing their age. We need to get quality instruments."

And with the department growing "exponentially," it needs them now, he said. Leaptrott said students might realize Brenau's pianos aren't up to snuff if they play top-quality instruments at other schools for competitions.

"If you have a pianist that's learning a particular piece, and the repetitive action of a note doesn't work properly or notes keep sticking, they don't practice properly for their recitals," Leaptrott said.

"It makes a big difference whether pianos are working properly and hold their tune properly. We think Steinways are noted as one of the best made pianos in the world and we felt like our students needed to have the very best to be the best possible musicians."

Steinhaus said every major in the department has a primary instrument and a minor instrument. Along with students in the musical theater and dance departments, they must have basic piano skills as their education foundation, so the pianos are used constantly.

Howard said the university is working with Steinway to earn funds for trading in its old pianos.

"Our goal is over the next couple of months to raise enough money to get the grand piano for Pierce Auditorium," she said.

Though Howard is not musically inclined herself, her mother taught piano and "raved about Steinway."

"Steinway is synonymous with the epitome of the best performance-brand pianos," Howard said. "They're handcrafted, handmade. They're certainly the premiere brand for anyone. The key with this initiative is that when a student walks in they go, ‘Not only do I get to perform on a Steinway, I get to practice on a Steinway.'"


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