New Steinway B Inspires Musical Excellence in America’s Heartland

Choral Director Shawna Dumbaugh had just started freshman choir rehearsal at Nevada High School when everything came to a screeching halt. Startled singers gasped, as all eyes turned to Kirsten Weber. “They looked in my direction because of how much richer and more beautiful the piano sounded as opposed to what their ears were accustomed to,” the accompanist fondly remembers after playing the first few notes on the school’s new Steinway Model B.

The city of Nevada (pronounced Ne-vay-da) in central Iowa has about 7,000 residents with some 450 students attending the high school, which shares its 630-seat performance venue with the community.

“Our high school is not a school one might normally expect to house a Steinway grand,” says Weber. “While we have incredible support for the arts, we don’t have a long list of huge donors. But four years ago, contributors from all walks of life stepped up and funded the Josephine Tope Community Auditorium, a magnificent space with terrific acoustics for students to display their talents.”

However, the facility was never properly outfitted with an instrument that would do justice to the space. That’s when Kirk Davis, piano division director at West Music Company in Coralville, arranged a trip for Weber and Susan Lekwa, a fellow accompanist and former middle school band director, to the Steinway factory in New York. 

 “I have heard that Steinways each have their own personality and soul, but I never really understood this until we got to the Dirk Dickten Selection Room. In the morning, Kirk went in first and played each of the five Model Bs, then Sue and I took turns in the afternoon,” Weber recalls.

“Choosing among five grand pianos was a big decision,” says Lekwa. “The uniqueness of each Steinway required us to consider which instrument would best suit our auditorium and types of performances.”

Focusing on tone color quality, evenness of sound throughout the registers, response to touch and pedaling capabilities, the pedagogues ended up selecting the same Model B secretly picked by Davis earlier in the day.

“We music teachers preach the use of contrasting dynamics, articulation, and tempo in performance,” Lekwa asserts.

“Steinway grands offer a large range of contrasting sounds, and this particular piano helps provide beautiful music for our soloists and accompanists.”

Steinway Artist Dr. Mei-Hsuan Huang, assistant professor of piano at Iowa State University, performed a dedication concert in April. Band Director Wade Presley has since contacted different groups around the country “and mentioning the Steinway has piqued their interest about coming here because it shows we are serious about quality music in our community,” he says.

Weber believes the best is yet to come: “The addition of our Steinway has set the bar for what we consider the new normal at Nevada – giving rural Iowa students a world-class music and drama education from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

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