Odessa College's epic All-Steinway journey

Student Azalea Rivas
 

Gayle Bizzell

Steinway artist Arlington Jones

 

ODESSA, TEXAS – After reviewing the outdated piano inventory at Odessa College, administrators didn’t parse words. Requiring students to use such low-quality instruments bordered on “educational malpractice,” they told Eric Baker, Chair of Visual and Performing Arts.

Situated in the oil-rich west Texas Permian Basin, Odessa is experiencing a seismic shift under President Gregory D. Williams, who insists every student is afforded the best opportunity for success. In musical terms, that commitment demanded 23 new pianos by Steinway & Sons from Steinway Hall Dallas/Fort Worth/Plano. The sale totaled more than $600,000 and consisted of three nine-foot concert grands, two seven-foot grands, one baby grand, and 17 uprights.

“The All-Steinway designation creates an environment where our piano and music students are able to practice and perform with some of the finest musical instruments in the world,”

says Dr. Williams. “Additionally, the All-Steinway opportunity transcends the music department and presents a statement about our entire philosophy and approach to quality and excellence in our students. Our goal is to seek excellence in everything we do. Partnering with Steinway & Sons in this endeavor continues our institution along that wonder-filled path.”

With majority funding from gifts through the J.C. Ferguson Foundation, Rea Charitable Trust, and the college, the four-year All-Steinway campaign closed in October, culminating in a special jazz performance by Steinway Artist Arlington Jones.

“Working with Steinway & Sons on this project has been enjoyable, rewarding, and easy,”

adds Baker. “The program took less time than anticipated, thanks to a combination of unwavering administrative support, community involvement, and assistance from Steinway & Sons. We are so pleased with the results and recommend this process to any music program that is serious about student success.”

Music faculty began exploring the All-Steinway concept in 2010 through the auspices of Bryan Elmore, Director of Institutional “The All-Steinway designation creates an environment where our piano and music students are able to practice and perform with some of the finest musical instruments in the world,” says Dr. Williams. “Additionally, the All-Steinway opportunity transcends the music department and presents a statement about our entire philosophy and approach to quality and excellence in our students. Our goal is to seek excellence in everything we do. Partnering with Steinway & Sons in this endeavor continues our institution along that wonder-filled path.” With majority funding from gifts through the J.C. Ferguson Foundation, Rea Sales, who shepherded Odessa through the program. Rekindling a greater sense of pride on campus, “the students are amazed at the beauty and sound created by these instruments. They constantly remark at how unusual it is to be surrounded by so many high-quality pianos,” Baker observes.

Aside from the All-Steinway initiative, Odessa has bolstered academic performance for a number of key student groups, prompting The Huffington Post to note the college’s example “proves higher education can be the rising tide that lifts all student prospects, particularly those historically underserved.”

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