Professors, students, and alumni alike shared excitement and refreshments as they mingled in the lobby of Ackerman Auditorium in late January. Soft music drifted across the lobby as some took turns playing the piano nestled in the corner.
There was a reason these music enthusiasts were gathered in celebration. The first shipment of 21 out of 30 new Steinway & Sons pianos had been delivered almost two years after the idea had been born. This first step toward becoming an All-Steinway School made Southern the only Adventist school as well as the only school in Chattanooga with this designation.
After an inventory of the pianos in Mable Wood Hall, Peter Cooper, piano professor, Scott Ball, dean of the School of Music and Ted Summitt, a retired local Steinway dealer and alumnus of Southern, saw that the pianos needed replacing. The pianos were beyond repair and had reached the end of their 30 years. This typical situation, common among the vast majority of college-level music programs provided an opportunity to replace the pianos with high-quality instruments. This would gain Southern Adventist University the prestigious title of an All-Steinway School, one of five in Tennessee and the 100th in the world.
“When I heard the idea I was thrilled, this would set us apart amongst other similar education facilities,” says Joy McKee, corporate and foundations relations director for Advancement at Southern Adventist University.
Each Steinway requires up to one full year to be handcrafted, resulting in an instrument of rare quality.
“I am humbled by the excitement this project is generating,” says Cooper. “I truly believe that this is a great moment for the School of Music and for all of us at Southern."
The other delivery of Steinway & Sons pianos were shipped after being individually chosen from a showroom in New York City. Cooper, accompanied by several key influencers of this project, have participated in selecting these five instruments.
In addition to the new pianos that will be placed in teaching studios and select practice rooms, a 9-foot grand will go in Ackerman Auditorium to be used for everything from student degree recitals to guest artist recitals.
Funds for this endeavor are being raised through Southern’s “Keys to Excellence” Campaign.
“These quality instruments will serve our students, our university, and the larger community as well,” says Ruth Liu, campaign chair. “The students’ musical preparation here at Southern would enable them in turn to enrich the lives of people around the world.”