Kimberly Chan has been playing piano for 14 years and loves music enough to dedicate her college career to the art. As a music industry studies student, there is one aspect of music that she doesn’t like.
“I have really bad performance anxiety, so I prefer not to perform,” she says. “With the new Steinway, I can bring out more in the music, and people notice that I’m more confident.”
Chan has been working with music Professor Nadia Shpachenko to overcome her performance anxiety, and the opportunity to play exclusively on Steinway & Sons pianos has been a catalyst for her confidence.
“I think the Steinway piano has become part of me,” she says. “I feel like sometimes when I start to panic on stage, the sound of the music brings me back to realize that I’m playing for myself and other people to enjoy the music. I shouldn’t be worried about messing up.”
Having the chance to play exclusively on Steinway pianos is something that students at only about 170 schools can do.
Cal Poly Pomona will receive the All-Steinway School designation from Steinway & Sons and celebrate the achievement on April 2.
In order to receive the distinction, a school must have all Steinway pianos in the recital halls and practice rooms. The music department launched a campaign in September 2013 to acquire 29 new pianos. After more than a year of fundraising, the department reached its goal in December 2014.
Steinway & Sons pianos are the gold standard in the music industry, and they are known for their rich sound.
“Acquiring new Steinway pianos has enhanced my teaching in so many ways,” Shpachenko says. “I can now demonstrate to my students to the fullest how music can come alive when performed with the finest skill on a great piano. I can show them what kind of sounds, dynamics and timbres can be brought out on a piano.”
As a professional pianist recently named a Steinway Artist, Shpachenko has been an advocate for the All-Steinway Initiative since the beginning.
“The All-Steinway Initiative was sparked by our music department Chair Iris Levine’s enthusiasm, determination, forward-thinking and magical ability to reach for the stars and achieve things considered impossible by many,” Shpachenko says. “It was definitely a long-term goal and ambitious dream that I, Dr. Levine, the music faculty and students shared.”
Anthony Crespo, a music industry studies major, says that becoming an All-Steinway School shows him that the university cares about his success.
“If you have the chance to practice on a Steinway, you won’t learn just the basics of the piano, but also the emotional impact that you feel when you play piano,” Crespo says. “It feels like you have more control, and there are a lot of sounds that you can make that you can’t get on any other piano. It won’t sound like you’re just playing notes, but actual music.”
Crespo says piano music is often thought of as only classical, but it really isn’t limited to one genre, which is part of why he continued to be interested in playing the instrument after high school.
“I think all styles have their distinct sounds and ideas,” he says. “I enjoy playing all of them.”
In addition to piano, which he has been playing for 14 years, he plays synthesizer keyboard in the MIDI Ensemble.
Many of the students in musical groups enrolled in the various ensembles in the department aren’t music majors. They’re students in other majors who want to continue to improve their musical abilities. Students don’t have to be majoring in music to use the practice rooms, and both Crespo and Chan have noticed more traffic since the installation of the Steinways.
“Before, after 3 p.m. the practice rooms were empty. But now, they’re filled up with non-music majors,” Chan says. “I hope more people can find their musicality and bring it out and share it with everyone else.”
Crespo believes that no matter the major, having access to Steinway pianos is a great opportunity.
“I think anyone can be musical, so I think it’s important for everyone to express emotions and feelings in any way possible,” he says. “If we can do that through music then I’m all for it.”