For 160 years, Steinway pianos have been considered the finest in the world. With price tags between $55,000 and $145,000, they are coveted instruments for pianists everywhere.So imagine if you were a pianist, and you were given a chance to pick out your own Steinway. That’s exactly what happened to four keyboard instructors in K-State's School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
Thanks to the generosity of K-State alumnus Mark Chapman, a dozen Steinway B grand pianos were brought together from various locations around the country for K-State faculty members Slawomir Dobrzanski, Virginia Houser, David Pickering and Amanda Arrington to audition personally. Each was able to choose pianos for their studios where they work with students.
This December, six pianos were delivered. For Houser, who received two Steinways, the gift of pianos inspired her to write a poem, which will be presented to Chapman in a ceremony later this year. “The day of their delivery was an exciting day,” Houser said. “When they arrived, it was kind of a crazy scene. The pianos were these wrapped odd-shaped bundles leaning against the hall walls, waiting for the old pianos to be moved out. When I finally played them, it was a sweet moment.”
When the pianos were placed in faculty studios, Chapman’s gift really came alive. “These beautiful instruments enable me to sound the very best that I can, and supply a quality of sound that will raise the level of every rehearsal and performance that we do,” said Arrington. “I am blown away by the generosity of Mark Chapman, and I am grateful to him every morning when I sit down to play this remarkable instrument.”
Faculty members are quick to point out how important the instruments will be to their students. “The benefits to our piano students are legion, chief among them being the fact that they get to experience the shades of beautiful tone and responsive key action that these pianos exhibit,” Pickering said. Chapman’s generosity does not stop with the six Steinways; he has funded two more Steinway grand pianos and about 17 Boston upright pianos to replace 40-year-old instruments in faculty studios. He has also made an investment in the theatre in Nichols Hall to address major infrastructure improvements. All of these enhancements advance the goals of K-State 2025 and will bolster the creative activities and experiences of students and faculty.
In some ways, Chapman is an unlikely benefactor to the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. “My folks gave me piano lessons for five years; they didn’t stick,” he recalls. “I couldn’t find middle C if you held a gun to my head.” And yet, Chapman was inspired by the music faculty, and the ability to make a difference. “I like to get the best bang for my buck,” said Chapman, who supports many K-State programs, including, most recently, new windows for Hale Library’s Great Room. “I like to see where I can really do something. It’s a privilege and a great opportunity to give money while you are still alive and see it go to this kind of project. What better way to feel you’ve made a difference?”
And in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, it’s a difference that is felt—and will be felt—for years to come, said (former) Director Gary Mortenson. “When you look at the large gift Mark Chapman has made with the Steinways, and with his gift to address infrastructure needs in the Mark A. Chapman Theatre in Nichols Hall, you begin to see the level of commitment he has made to the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance,” said Mortenson. “He is transforming the performing arts here at K-State in terms of support and quality.”
—Story by Susan Berhow