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Published: Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Kansas Campus Joins Elite List of Music Programs
Three moving vans rolled onto the campus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., in May 2015. Their precious cargo; 17 brand new Steinway pianos. That was just one part of an overall plan by the college to enhance its Music Department and become an All-Steinway School. More pianos would be delivered through the summer, with the final three, including a beautiful concert grand, delivered July 20. Now every piano on the campus, from classrooms to rehearsal rooms to the recital hall and performance venues, is a Steinway.
“Steinway & Sons is the top piano manufacturer in the world,” said Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College. “Their pianos, made by hand in New York, define excellence. Being designated an All-Steinway School demonstrates a commitment to the arts and a commitment to excellence. We are pleased to provide our students and faculty with the best equipment possible for the study of music.”
There are more than 2,500 colleges/universities in America and thousands more around the world, and only 172 have been designated All-Steinway Schools. Now Benedictine College joins that elite list. Not only do these schools demonstrate a commitment to high quality music education, they also commit themselves to a specified Steinway maintenance schedule that includes temperature and humidity control as well as regular tuning by Steinway & Sons technicians.
“The dream of every music department in the world is to become an All-Steinway School and we are thrilled to be among the few institutions that have this honor,” said Dr. Ruth Krusemark, chair of the Music Department and the Mother Evangelista Kremmeter Professor of Benedictine Traditions and Values. “Our students will reap the greatest benefits of the pianos by practicing and performing on the best the industry has to offer. To make music on a Steinway increases your love for the wonderful sounds the instrument provides and inspires students to reach for their highest performance potential.”
But the arrival of pianos on campus was the culmination of a story that actually began in the 1970s when a young music student, Kathie Weishar, came to Benedictine College. Her experience at the college and her connection with S. Joachim Holthaus, OSB, her favorite music professor, enriched her love of music and especially the piano. Now married to Rick Dalzell, she and her husband have taken a special interest in the Benedictine College Music Department.
“As a graduate in piano performance, the music department at Benedictine College will always be a special place with many fond memories for me,” she said. “Recently, Rick and I took a walk through the practice rooms and were concerned about the condition of the pianos. There was no question about the need for better instruments! We are thrilled to be able to make Benedictine College an All-Steinway School.”
The Dalzells gave a donation of nearly $1 million that allowed Benedictine College to make the move to All-Steinway School status. Their gift funded the purchase of 21 new Steinway pianos, as well as the refurbishment of all the teaching studios and rehearsal rooms. The gift also established an endowment that will perpetually fund the Steinway-approved maintenance program, assuring the pianos are kept in performance-quality condition.
“As chair of the Benedictine College Music Department and as a pianist, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to our donors who recognize the importance of giving back to Benedictine College and providing opportunities for our students,” Krusemark said. “Through their gift, the Dalzells have provided a legacy that will benefit students for at least the next half-century. We are deeply indebted to them for their generosity and love for the institution.”
Krusemark and Dalzell traveled to Steinway’s production facility in New York City and tried several pianos. They personally selected the Steinway Model D, or concert grand piano, that will stay on the stage in O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium.
“Touring the Steinway factory was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Dalzell said. “The selection process was exhilarating! Although the pianos are built the same, they each take on their own character. Ruth and I played several pianos and chose the ones we thought had the qualities in sound and action we were hoping for.”
In addition to the concert grand, Dalzell and Krusemark chose two Steinway Model B pianos while in New York. Often referred to as the “Music Room Grand,” the Model B is designed for smaller recital halls, auditoriums, and broadcasting, recording, or professional studios. Krusemark and other members of the Music Department also chose three more Model B pianos through Schmitt Music, a Steinway dealer in the Kansas City area. A dozen upright Steinway Model 1098 pianos and two small Model A “parlor grand” pianos were also included in the purchase.
About Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons was founded in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway in a Manhattan loft on Varick Street. Over the next thirty years, Henry and his sons, C. F. Theodore, Charles, Henry Jr., William, and Albert, developed the modern piano. They built their pianos one at a time, applying skills that were handed down from master to apprentice, generation after generation. Steinway is dedicated to the ideal of making the finest pianos in the world. The result is instruments renowned for their unsurpassed quality; pianos with such superior sound and responsive touch that they enchant the most demanding pianists.