Fine Arts Flourish In Fort Worth With Record Purchase Of Boston Pianos

As seen in the Boston Chronicle, Issue Two, 2015.

The Fort Worth Independent School District is reaffirming a powerful long-term commitment to the Fine Arts expected to result in a near $2.5 million acquisition of almost 250 new Steinway-designed Boston pianos.

The largest institutional purchase in the 23-year history of the Boston line began in March with a delivery of 25 uprights and grand pianos. New instruments arrived in auditoriums and music classrooms at 15 schools, marking the initial phase of a prodigious partnership with Steinway Hall Dallas/Fort Worth/ Plano that will extend through August 2018. On July 1st, the district ordered another 50 pianos, bringing the total value of the first two phases to just under $1 million. Fort Worth ISD has more than 86,000 students and close to 150 schools.

"We are tremendously gratified that Fort Worth schools chose Boston pianos to meet the needs of students, teachers and the entire community through this multi-year initiative," said Ron Losby, President, Steinway & Sons-Americas. "What a privilege it is to share our instruments in a thriving arts environment with young individuals in the formative stages of their development."

Home to the late Van Cliburn and the Cliburn competitions, "Fort Worth is a community where the arts are appreciated and supported by people who understand the real meaning of a well-rounded education," said Danny Saliba, President, Steinway Hall Dallas. The district conducted an exhaustive ten-year study of each piano brand in terms of touch, tone, and longevity, concluding the Steinway Family of Pianos "fit every need from beginners to more accomplished musicians. This incredible commitment is a testament of the strong desire to provide students with the best possible pianos for the pure study and utter enjoyment of music," he said.

Christina Walk, Executive Director of Visual and Performing Arts, said the district is looking to expand piano opportunities in light of earlier state legislative action that makes Fine Arts credit available to students. Fort Worth plans to open a new prep middle school and a high school academy for visual and performing arts in 2017.

Years ago, Fort Worth staffed elementary schools with certified music and art teachers when other districts opted to reduce programs for budgetary reasons. Today, orchestra, choral, and instrumental music programs are flourishing. "All of our students receive some elementary education in music, and we ensure that there are different creative outlets available from K to 12," she said.

Third-graders, for instance, get a chance to compete and discover their inner Verdi or Puccini by composing operas. "It is very satisfying to me to see the pride and enjoyment they take in their work," Ms. Walk said.

At Como Elementary, B Sharp, a free after-school program influenced by El Sistema, brings students under the guidance of professional musicians funded by the Goff Family Foundation. Others, including the Cliburn Foundation, Performing Arts Fort Worth and Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, have provided invaluable assistance for many of the district's musical endeavors.

"It takes much teamwork. We are grateful for the support of our partners in the community," Ms. Walk said.

For the second consecutive year, Fort Worth ranked among the nation's Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation. Of more than 13,500 school districts, only 388 made the list in 2015. Fort Worth ISD recently received a $1.4 million federal grant for professional development and training of music teachers, she added.

At O.D. Wyatt High School, Brian Stratton had a group of eager students who helped launch the "Keys to Success" piano curriculum that has since expanded to other schools. He shared his dream of having Steinway and Boston pianos with Bryan Elmore, Director of Institutional Sales at the Steinway Showrooms in North Texas and Houston. The two met at the 2014 Texas Music Educators Association in San Antonio. "Mr. Stratton works in a challenged neighborhood and brings hope and a vision of success to each and every student. He is an inspiration and without question, one of the finest teachers I have had the privilege of working with," Mr. Elmore said.

Steinway Artists Arlington Jones and Dr. Luis Sanchez, artist in residence at Texas A&M University-Commerce, gave exceptional performances on a nine-foot Steinway concert grand to help celebrate the introduction of formal piano training at the high school.

"We've held special dedications just to recognize the importance of what these new instruments mean and what they do for our programs," Ms. Walk said, noting that some teachers shed tears of joy.

"The sound is unmatched by any other piano I've ever played." said Kathleen Reimer, a teacher at Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School, after sampling a new Boston GP-178. "It is a high honor to have one of these pianos in our school. Fort Worth ISD could not have picked a better instrument for our auditorium and our students."

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