A SOULFUL EXPERIENCE AT ALL-STEINWAY WEST TEXAS A&M 

As seen in the Spring 2017 edition of the Chronicle.

CANYON, TEXAS – In an era when quick fixes usually suffice, the West Texas A&M University School of Music embraced a long-term vision to create an enduring legacy for future generations of students.

Ten years ago – with a sizeable inventory of 84 aging pianos – making WTAMU an All-Steinway School seemed like an overwhelming task. But piano faculty members Denise Parr-Scanlin and Choong-ha Nam took short strides with great effort. 

“Our (former) university president, Dr. Patrick O’Brien, and wife Karen were unwavering in their support throughout this project,” says Dr. Parr-Scanlin. “The synergy between university leaders, our devoted group of community supporters and music students and faculty brought us to this milestone.”

From left, Steinway’s Bryan Elmore, Drs. J. Patrick O’Brien and Robert Hansen, holding the All-Steinway plaque. 

Dr. Robert Hansen, who was named director when the program evolved into a School of Music, offers an enthusiastic endorsement: “I had come to realize that this single accomplishment would be the most enduring and prominent declaration of our new status (as a School of Music) and our intent to advance the program,” he says. “Our association with Steinway & Sons and Bryan Elmore, in particular, has been the most impressive affirmation of our intentions to be among the most outstanding music programs in the region. While the components of that excellence have been present for many years, becoming an All-Steinway School gave great legitimacy to our claim.”

“Our association with Steinway & Sons has been the most impressive affirmation of our intentions to be among the most outstanding music programs in the region.”

Dr. J. Patrick and Karen O’Brien were steadfast in their support for the campaign. 

By pledging excellence in every aspect of musical instruction and performance, WTAMU assumes a leadership position among colleges and universities across the country, according to Sally Coveleskie, Steinway’s National Director of Higher Education Sales. “Future generations of students, faculty, visiting artists, and the entire community will benefit from this living legacy,” she says.

Steinway’s Bryan Elmore, Institutional Sales Manager for Steinway & Sons Pianos in North Texas, reports the school’s inventory now exceeds $2.5 million. However, Dr. Hansen stresses the All- Steinway designation brings remarkable value beyond the dollars spent: “Quality begets quality, and Steinway is quality at the highest level,” he says. “Not only does it bring pride to faculty and students, but it motivates our donors, as well.”

“Quality begets quality, and Steinway is quality at the highest level. Not only does it bring pride to faculty and students, but it motivates our donors, as well.”

Good things happened after WTAMU representatives attended Steinway’s Keys to Finding Funds Seminar in New York. The slow and steady climb reached an astonishing peak in 2016 when 50 uprights and grands by Steinway & Sons were delivered to faculty studios, practice rooms, and classrooms. “We also have three wonderful concert instruments – two D’s in our main concert hall and a new B in a smaller venue – which I believe are worthy of the highest caliber of artists and are conducive to the highest level of music making,” adds Dr. Nam. “I feel very proud and fortunate knowing that these are real assets not only to our students but also the community at large.”

West Texas A&M alum Dana Garcia, a piano major, explores a new spectrum of sound on campus. 

Introducing donors to “the craftsmanship and soul that goes into creating an American-made Steinway piano” was a major key to success, according to Dr. Hansen. “Making these wonderful people feel as if they were creating art on a world-class instrument by touring the Steinway factory, watching a student make a selection, and hearing the Steinway family history really gave them a sense of ownershipin our program. And owners are stakeholders. They not only wanted to see this mission accomplished, but they continue to support it.” 

One of many truckloads of new Steinways provides a backdrop as Dr. O’Brien cuts the ribbon, adding West Texas A&M to the roster of All-Steinway Schools. 

Students and faculty have also forged strong ties to the Steinways. “The students cheered long and loud when I announced that the practice rooms were now home to new pianos,” he recalls. “The practice rooms – all 42 of them – are in constant use. The students seem to want to play on the pianos for the joy of having a quality instrument at their disposal, even if their practicing is done. And more time in the practice room clearly leads to better results.” 

Dr. Denise Parr-Scanlin collaborates with cellist Emmanuel Lopez.

Dr. Parr-Scanlin adds that “it’s easier to demonstrate and discuss the finer points of technique knowing that a student has an excellent piano on which to explore the concepts.”

Around the school, pride of ownership is self-evident. The WTAMU Collegiate Chapter of the Music Teachers National Association even organized a cleaning crew to dust the pianos.

“We are Steinway for our students,” proclaims Dr. Hansen. 

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