Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Music and Dance will celebrate the relaunch of an ongoing campaign to outfit the entire department with Steinway pianos with an event at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater Sept. 23. This event will feature the documentary, “Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037” and piano performances by EMU music students and faculty.
An endeavor that began in 2009 and temporarily lost momentum, the revitalized Steinway Campaign at the university seeks to raise $1 million over the course of several years to fund the replacement and maintenance of new pianos for the music department.
“The piano is the most basic, foundational musical instrument,” said Garik Pedersen, Steinway artist and piano professor at the university. “Many of our pianos are old and unusable at this point.”
The music department realized years ago that something needed to be done about its aging equipment and decided to replace all of the pianos with carefully crafted and famous Steinway & Sons pianos. In doing this, the music department hopes to build prestige and recruit top musicians and students from around the country.
“A Steinway piano is not only the best instrument, but it’s also the biggest value for our buck,” Pedersen said.
But the music faculty knew that replacing all of the pianos would be difficult, even with the “symbiotic relationship” that Pedersen said they are building with the Steinway company.
“The impetus behind this campaign was the discovery that there was not going to be an ongoing source of funding to maintain or replace these pianos without contributing to it ourselves,” Pedersen said.
The Steinway Campaign seeks to raise money for the new equipment through donations.
“The event is an attractive way to both provide a service and get the word out,” Pedersen said. “And really, it’s a star-studded event.”
The documentary being shown at the event, “Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037,” follows the creation of one particular Steinway piano from start to finish. Each Steinway piano takes a full year to create.
“The star of the show, the Steinway L1037, will actually be in the lobby during the event. It’s a famous instrument,” Pedersen said. “Our performers will get to use it and any other pianists who attend the event will get to try it out as well. They can take it for a piano ride.”
Piano faculty and university students will perform at the Michigan Theater on the famous piano, including the notable second-year piano major Trang Vo.
“Dr. Pedersen asked me to play at the event,” Vo said. She said she has never been to the Michigan Theater or played a venue of its size.
“I am excited,” she said. “It could be good for my career, too.”
She explained that practicing with an old piano creates bad habits, especially with the way the fingers work with the keys.
To music students like Vo, a high quality piano makes a world of difference.
“It’s the dream of every music major to practice with a Steinway,” Vo said. “The sound is much better and you can feel the difference in your fingers. We only have one to practice with.”
Vo is not sure of her participation in future events within the campaign, but said she would like to be involved and would like to see the department get new pianos.
“It will attract more students,” she said.
The Steinway Campaign event begins at 2 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $7 for EMU students and seniors and can be purchased online at www.michtheater.org/shows/note-by-note/, and all proceeds from the event will go towards the campaign.
“We certainly don’t expect to complete the campaign on Sunday,” Pedersen said. “We were at the point where we could put the campaign to rest or relaunch it, and we are so glad we didn’t let it go.”