FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – As the School of Church Music (SCM) approaches its centennial anniversary in 2015, it also looks ahead to prepare for its next 100 years of equipping students in ministry through music by investing in instruments that will last just as long.
Recently, first lady Dorothy Patterson, SCM Dean Stephen Johnson, two donors and professors Jill Sprenger and Robert Smith visited the Steinway & Sons factory in New York City to select a new piano for Reynolds Auditorium. The selection of this piano—a Model D Concert Grand—comes as part of the long-range plan for Southwestern to become an all-Steinway school—a distinction held by less than 150 institutions worldwide.
“Our students spend hours upon hours each day in refinement of their musical craft,” Johnson said. “For years, they have been working each day on instruments that have long outlived their usefulness. Thanks to Southwestern’s commitment to become an All New York Handmade Steinway School, we are now more than delighted that our students are able to practice and perform on instruments of highest quality.”
Steinway & Sons takes nearly a year to make each of its grand pianos by hand, carefully assembling the more than 12,000 parts into one finely-tuned instrument. The Model D piano selected for Reynolds auditorium stretches nearly nine feet in length and weighs 990 pounds.
Johnson said a large part of the instrument’s high quality relates to its longevity. Whereas the pianos on which students have played for years at Southwestern have life spans of about 30 years, Steinway pianos, when maintained correctly, can last more than 100 years.
“We’re going to be doing something for Southwestern here that will outlast us all,” Johnson said.
Johnson says that up to this point, music faculty have been able to describe the excellence in music they wanted to see from the students, but without the proper tools, they have not been able to expect that excellence from them in their performances. Now, though, with the best of the best pianos to work with, faculty can fully expect the sort of performances and understanding of music selections that they have formerly only spoken about.
“So often the faculty will talk about what you should be aiming for, and now we're able to model it,” Johnson said. “Now we're able to expect it of the students. So it’s a little bit of a two-edged sword. It’s great for the students, but now we expect the students to step up to that level.”
In the larger picture, Johnson hopes that outfitting the school with the best pianos available will translate into graduates who will better serve in local churches and ministries in which the Lord places them.
“We're really hoping that the students can come and be serious about their work so that way they're not just effective for 1.4 years, which is the current turnover rate in ministers of music that are not trained in a seminary,” Johnson said. “If we can help people to be prepared for a lifetime of ministry, the impact of that is so strong. Longevity and legacy [are] important points of connection between the history of the music school and where we're hoping to go.”
The donation for and purchase of this latest piano brings the school one-third of the way to its goal in becoming an all-Steinway school. Others interested in helping the school reach the goal can contact Southwestern’s Institutional Advancement office at (817) 923-1921, ext. 7200.