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100-year-old Tennessee Tech alumna gives Steinway piano to School of Music 

Billye Spicer sits at her Steinway piano to play it one last time before donating it to Tennessee Tech

Billye Spicer says an article about Tennessee Tech’s All-Steinway Initiative inspired her to give her beloved Steinway piano to Tech’s School of Music.

“I can’t think of a better place for my piano to go than to the school that I attended when I graduated from high school,” she said.

Spicer will celebrate her 100th birthday on July 20 and has played piano longer than most people have been alive. She began taking piano lessons when she was just four years old.

“I had a good teacher,” Spicer said. “But the only problem I had is that I can play by ear, and my teacher did not appreciate that.”

Spicer says her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother could all play by ear as well.

“I come from a long line of piano players,” she said.

Colin Hill, director of Tech’s School of Music, and Lee Bledsoe, Tech’s piano technician, had the opportunity to hear Spicer play her piano one last time when they went to her home to pick it up.

“The School of Music is extremely grateful for the generous donation by Ms. Spicer,” Hill said. “This instrument, a Steinway Model B Grand Piano, is a world-class instrument and has been kept in pristine condition. It will be used for student, faculty and guest artist recitals for years to come. We were thrilled to learn that Ms. Spicer wanted to donate her piano to Tech, and we are glad this instrument will remain in the Tennessee Tech family.”

Spicer’s piano will find a new home in the School of Music’s recital hall, located on the second floor of the Bryan Fine Arts Building.

In order to join the ranks of other top-rated fine arts programs in the region, Tech is working to complete the requirements to become an All-Steinway School. The All-Steinway School designation is given to an institution directly by Steinway & Sons. Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway, is an American piano company founded in 1853 in Manhattan by German piano builder Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (anglicized name Henry Engelhard Steinway). Each Steinway piano is handmade, and it takes approximately one year to build a Steinway piano.

To be designated an All-Steinway School, 90 percent or more of the acoustic pianos owned by an institution must be Steinway & Sons, Boston or Essex Institutional models, with the goal of reaching 100 percent as instruments are replaced. An All-Steinway designation will place Tech in elite company alongside the most prestigious music schools in the world and help Tech recruit the finest faculty and most promising students.

“Of course, Steinway is the very best piano that is made,” said Spicer. “And since I had one I thought, ‘Well, I can just give it to Tech.’ It was my pleasure to give. I was very fortunate to have that piano. I had many years to enjoy it.”

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