Andrei Andreev practicing on the DeArmond piano.

Major Keys

The jackpot of pianos available at the UO School of Music and Dance

In Beall Concert Hall, Andrei Andreev performs a Mozart concerto for his fellow piano students. Their critiques help him prepare for an upcoming competition. So does the piano: a nine-foot Steinway concert grand they call “The DeArmond” in honor of the couple who donated it.

It’s the same caliber of instrument you’d find in a major recording studio or concert hall. The UO’s School of Music and Dance now boasts four of them, making us unique among our peers—and a global destination for piano students.

For Andreev, a graduate student from Russia, the Steinways have helped move his performances beyond playing the right notes at the right times.  

“When I play on the practice room pianos, they just have the things you need to improve your technique,” he says. “When I play the big pianos, it gives you something you can create in the moment. This is the moment of creating art.”

Even for touring pros, the Steinways are impressive. When Grammy Award–winner Emanuel Ax led a master class in Beall Hall, says Professor Alexandre Dossin, he commented on the remarkable selection of pianos.

“Our pianos are that good. And we have a variety, which is important. Certain instruments are better for certain compositions. And there’s also personal taste. The pianos are all different. Like wines. You have this wine for this, and this wine for that."

“Because they have the names of the donors on them, I feel really personal about it. I don’t say ‘Give me piano number three.’ I say the name of the family who donated it. It’s alive. It’s part of a cycle of generosity.”

That cycle continued this March, when the school welcomed its newest addition: the American Giustina. Adding new Steinways to the collection is important because (unlike wine or a Stradivarius) pianos don’t improve with age. Strings tug constantly with up to 30 tons of pressure. More than 1,000 moving parts get soft.

Thanks to donors, talented pianists—students and pros alike—will be creating art in Beall Hall for years to come.

Ed Dorsch, BA ’94, MA ’98, is a UO staff writer.

 

THE PIANOS

Steinway’s flagship Model D pianos are manufactured in Hamburg, Germany, or in New York, at a cost upwards of $150,000. The Hamburgs and the Americans have different styles, and each piano has its own distinct sound and personality.

 

THE GIUSTINA

Donor: Jacqueline Giustina, BA ’43

  • 2006 Hamburg
  • Bigger, more powerful sound
  • Action more responsive to  demanding, repetitive playing
  • Better for more technical performances

 

THE DeARMOND

Donors: Leona, BS ’51, and Robert DeArmond, BBA ’52

  • 2007 Hamburg
  • Warm, expressive
  • Better for intimate pieces with a quieter tone palette
  • More sensitive dynamic responds well to soft or loud playing

 

THE SCHNITZER

Donors: Thelma, BMus ’40, and Gilbert Schnitzer, BS ’40

  • 2009 American
  • A bigger, fuller sound characteristic of the New York–built American Steinways
  • Unlike the pure, bell-like sound  of the Hamburgs, Americans have  a more complex tone
  • The design of the American Steinway keys creates an accelerated action that makes them repeat notes more quickly than the Hamburgs

 

THE AMERICAN GIUSTINA

  • The school’s newest piano arrived this March, thanks to the generosity of Jacqueline Giustina. Dossin had the opportunity to try several pianos at Steinway’s Los Angeles showroom, as part of a rigorous selection process. 

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