You might say the All-Steinway Initiative for Wayland Baptist University started on a sour note. A Wayland alumnus was playing a recital as guest pianist, when something slipped inside the piano.
“It started making weird noises,” said Dr. Ann Stutes, dean of the School of Music at Wayland. Fortunately, Dr. Gary Belshaw, composer-in-residence at Wayland, had piano tuning tools as well as some knowledge of how to fix the problem. Nevertheless, it was embarrassing. Shortly after that, said Joe Provence, president of the Friends of Music, Stutes invited a few people to her house for dinner to discuss the possibility of Wayland’s becoming an All-Steinway School. That was in the fall of 2011.
Monday afternoon, at a press conference, WBU officials and a Steinway representative announced that the university has officially been certified as an All-Steinway School, one of only 170 in the nation, and the only Baptist school in Texas that has that distinction.
The initiative was an approximately $630,000 project beginning with the initial purchase of a Steinway & Sons Model D concert grand piano for $119,420. Wayland also paid an additional $35,000 to have its existing concert piano rebuilt – the same piano that sounded a sour note at the concert.-- Wayland purchased and replaced 29 grand, baby grand and upright pianos for use in faculty studios, practice rooms and performance halls around campus. Pianos ranged in price from approximately $5,700 to $120,000.
Now every piano used for performance, practice and instruction on the Wayland campus is a Boston, Essex or Steinway model, all products of Steinway and Sons.
“I told the Lord, I will work my hardest, if you will let me see this before I die,” said Joe Provence, president of the Friends of Music organization. “I’m still alive and today we are an All-Steinway School.”
Bryan Elmore, managing director of institutional advancement for Steinway and Sons, laughingly reminded Provence that his work wasn’t done, because Joe and his wife Freda Provence are working to raise Steinway scholarships for students.
“He has to live on,” Elmore said.
Dr. Paul Armes, WBU president, said that the All-Steinway Initiative reminded him of his mother, a composer and musician who said that music was “a reflection of the very face of God.” He said it was his prayer that the music produced from the Steinways always points to God and to Jesus Christ.
Dr. Bobby Hall, executive vice president and provost, WBU, pointed to the positive impact the pianos will have on teachers, students and guests.
“A great academic success story is what we have today,” Hall said. “One that will be repeated in studios and performance halls and classrooms for many, many decades to come.” Elmore told of going to a nursing home with Provence to visit a quadriplegic woman called “Miss Wanda,” who sacrificially gave a regular small sum to the All-Steinway Initiative. “Why do you do this?” he asked her. “Because those kids deserve the best,” she said.
Wayland will celebrate the All-Steinway accomplishment with a series of special events this week, including the American Family Christmas Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Harral Fine Arts Auditorium. A formal dedication concert is tentatively scheduled for late January, at which time officials from Steinway & Sons will be on hand to join in the celebration.
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