Seven glossy black pianos have been installed at Tennessee Tech University, marking the beginning of the university’s journey to becoming an all-Steinway school.
The pianos – three grands and four uprights – were purchased with an anonymous $100,000 gift to TTU’s music department. The instruments were designed by Steinway, but built by Boston – a subsidiary of the world’s top piano manufacturer.
“All music majors study piano; a piano is used for composition, it’s used for accompaniment, it’s used for theory,” Catherine Godes, chairperson of the piano department at TTU, said. “Schools of music should have good quality instruments. I think it makes an impact on the morale of the students.”
TTU’s pianos came from the Steinway Piano Gallery of Nashville. The university bought its first pianos from the Nashville gallery in the 1990s and the two have been working together ever since.
“We were able to start a program that helped them start replacing their old pianos with Steinway and Steinway-designed pianos,” Bill Metcalfe, president of the Steinway Piano Gallery of Nashville, said. “Tennessee Tech is on track to be an all-Steinway school so they can attract the best faculty and the best students.”
Boston pianos are famous for the attention to detail that goes into designing and making each one. It takes six months to make a Boston piano. The company only makes about 2,500 pianos a year; each is made to order.
“Tennessee Tech must have the best equipment in every college on campus to ensure that students have the best collegiate education possible,” said J. Mark Hutchins, vice president for University Advancement. “This gift toward becoming an all-Steinway school has already had an incredible impact on our music students and is further evidence that loyal supporters understand the importance of keeping Tech a preeminent institution in all of its academic areas.”
All but one of the new pianos have been placed in student practice rooms. One of the grand pianos went into accompanist Paul Thurmond’s office, to replace a 30-year-old piano.
The pianos will replace instruments that have been on campus for decades.
“It is a world of difference from the other ones we have,” junior music education and pre-med double major Nick Waycaster said. “I’m really excited about these; I didn’t expect them to be this good.”
“I feel like I’m going to want to practice a little bit more now,” the Sparta native said.
TTU has 30 practice rooms on campus, 19 of which have acoustic pianos in them. Another five of the rooms have digital pianos. As an all-Steinway school, 90 percent of a college’s pianos must be Steinway or Boston. At TTU, eventually, all of the rooms will have a piano of either make.
“Our students give them a lot of use,” said Arthur LaBar, chairperson of the TTU department of music and art. “It’s extremely important for them to have the best instruments we can provide for them so they can reach their full potential.”