by Pamela Young, Published September 11, 2013
"One dime at a time.” That’s partly how students, faculty and staff at Eastern Michigan University managed to buy eight Steinway pianos.
The pianos will be on display at a reception, Thursday, Sept. 19, hosted by the Department of Music & Dance and the EMU Foundation. The 3 p.m. event will be held in the breezeway of the Alexander Building, and is free and open to the public.
Seven pianos will initially be covered while the eighth one will be wheeled into the breezeway accompanied by a drum line. Piano students will then play the EMU Fight Song.
Steinways are considered the Cadillac of pianos in terms of quality, tone and longevity. The goal is to make Eastern Michigan a “Steinway” campus. With the addition of the new pianos, the University will have 31 Steinways with a need for 74 more. Each of the vertical (upright) pianos costs approximately $6,000.
Although the fundraising campaign originally began in 2008, it took off in 2012, thanks to a number of new donations.
“The piano students organized the grassroots campaign to raise funds,” said Diane Winder, head of the Department of Music and Dance. “They sold T-shirts; volunteered to serve on our Steinway board and made about $850 from bottle and can returns.”
Students Sarah Hamilton and Kevin Shay came up with the ideas for various fundraising projects.
“We felt that as students, we wanted to get more involved because ultimately the pianos are for students,” said Hamilton, a graduate student in piano. “We are proud of our Steinway pianos, and it feels great to know we had a small part in obtaining them.”
Last fall, Hamilton and Shay started the bottle and cans collection. The bottle campaign spawned the mantra, “One dime at a time.”
The campaign isn’t finished yet. The students will continue to sell T-shirts this semester as well as sweatpants and tote bags.
"Donors have made a significant difference for our students,” said Ceci Riecker, director of development for EMU’s College of Arts & Sciences. “That really shows the power of the dime because the donations really added up. The department is chipping away at the $3 million goal that is earmarked for more pianos and renovation of two historic pianos.”
The Steinways will replace pianos currently in use in faculty studios, practice rooms, classrooms, dance studios and the Music Therapy Center, Winder said. These pianos give students the top instrument in the world and it teaches them respect for a high quality piano.
“This has never been done before at EMU,” she said. “Anyone in the music and dance programs eventually is in need of a piano. Whether it is by teaching or programming, it all filters down to the students.”
Winder estimates that 350 students will use or have a piano in the classroom. In addition, there are music appreciation classes for students; performances by EMU’s choirs and 200 free concerts a year – all that use a piano as part of their repertoire.
As for the future, plans are already in place to continue raising funds.
"Our primary goal this year is to raise enough funds for a 7-foot grand piano for the orchestra room,” Winder said. “We’re currently using a piano that needs to be replaced.”
The cost is approximately $150,000. A secondary goal is to raise fund for what Winder calls heirloom rebuilds. These are two historic pianos, one from the 1860s that is possibly the oldest Steinway in Michigan.
“A rebuild at $35,000 will give us a brand new piano that is less than half of what it would cost to buy,” Winder said. “They are beautiful instruments.”
Steinway donations are also a wonderful legacy, said Riecker. The university has received two donations of Steinway baby grand pianos.