Music Professor Nadia Shpachenko took a seat and leaned in close like she was ready to hear a secret.
Her fingers found their homes atop the black and white keys and began to play. A bright arpeggio of notes cascaded out from the open top of the glossy black instrument, reverberating off the hardwood floors of the Steinway & Sons showroom.
“This one has such a warmth to it,” Shpachenko said before hopping over to play another piano.
Shpachenko, Department of Music Chair Iris Levine and department accompanist Janet Noll visited the Steinway showroom in Pasadena on June 23 to pick out the first three pianos that Cal Poly Pomona will purchase through the All-Steinway School Initiative.
Steinway pianos are handmade, so each has different qualities.
“It’s much more about feel and touch than it is about sound. All Steinways sound fabulous, but each individual player will find the piano that best responds to his or her touch,” Levine said.
“Some musicians like a quick ‘action,’ and some like a more delayed response. We all want an evenness of tone and register. Some may want a brighter sound and others a more full, dark sound. But it is the touch that is personal.”
The music department plans to raise $2.5 million and buy a total of 29 Steinway pianos through the All-Steinway School Initiative. The pianos would range from a concert grand piano for performances to upright pianos for student practice rooms.
Levine, Shpachenko, and Noll tried out four music room grand pianos – which are the second largest in the Steinway inventory after the concert grand piano. The music room grand pianos are designed for studio instruction and performance in small to mid-sized venues.
Of the first three pianos, one will go into a large classroom where it will be used for choral ensemble rehearsals, voice and instrumental seminars as well as general education classes where students of all majors will benefit from the Steinway initiative. Noll will use another for rehearsals with the student performers she accompanies. Shpachenko, a renowned performer, will use the third in her teaching studio.
Each piano was selected based on its future use and the type of room it will be in, Levine added.
“For example, in the classroom you will want something that will have a bigger sound to fill the room,” she said.
Levine, Shpachenko and Noll picked out three pianos they liked. They have arrived on campus within the last week.
The piano purchases will allow Cal Poly Pomona students to learn exclusively on Steinways, which are regarded as the gold standard by pianists. Fewer than 160 conservatories, universities and schools of music worldwide have attained All-Steinway status.
The goal of the All-Steinway School Initiative is to provide Cal Poly Pomona students with the finest equipment to study music, attract elite musicians and educators, and build a legacy of excellence.
The campaign also includes funding to establish an endowment to maintain the pianos.