A Star Quality Steinway Storms The Stage At Cab Calloway School

WILMINGTON, DE — When he arrived at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Shane van Neerden had a dilemma. As an honors student building a career in classical music since age 6, "it was mandatory that I had the proper atmosphere to practice and more so, the right instrument.” Electronic keyboards with headphones could not faithfully replicate the authentic characteristics of an acoustic piano desired by Shane, now 16, and other piano performance majors.

It was mandatory that I had the proper atmosphere to practice and more so, the right instrument.

He brought the situation to his piano teacher, Margaret Badger. With financial support from parents, families, the Cab Calloway School Fund, and Red Clay Consolidated School District, the group worked tirelessly to acquire a new Steinway grand piano. Music faculty members sought the expertise of Sonja Lynne from the Jacobs Music Company to select the perfect Model B for the Cab Theatre, which underwent a $9.8 million renovation in 2014. “The theatre itself is sublime,” said Mrs. Badger. “Having a star quality piano available for all guest performances and ensembles adds prestige, power and optimizes performance opportunities. The students — many of whom are having their first solo performances — continually find the quality of this instrument makes even their beginner performances stronger.”

For seasoned artists, the results are more dramatic. “My life at school changed because of this,” said Shane, a dedicated pianist whose studies have taken him to several competitions including All-Steinway Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he performed at the Cooper Piano Festival.

Combining strong academics with artistic excellence, Cab Calloway serves students in grades 6 to 12. In 2011, the arts magnet school funded a piano program that has grown to accommodate nearly 20 percent of the student population. “At the moment, we are overextended with our capacity, but I hope that the 20 percent we serve can continue to improve in quality during their time with us,” Mrs. Badger said.

The quality of this instrument makes even their beginner performances stronger.”

In the class of 2016, she noted 75 percent of piano majors plan further studies in the sciences, some aspiring to become teachers and neurosurgeons. “Though few plan a career in the arts, they will maintain avocational interest in music and be able to financially and personally support the arts,” Mrs. Badger said.

Workplace peers will be hard pressed to match the cultural hip factor of attending a school named for Cab Calloway, the trendsetting bandleader, or its official song, “Minnie the Moocher,” with his trademark Hi-De-Ho refrain. And there is a Steinway connection to those long flowing coattails. Cab spent three years playing “Sportin Life” in Porgy and Bess, a role that composer and Steinway Artist George Gershwin modeled after his animated performing style. As Cab put it, “my audience was my life. What I did and how I did it, was for my audience.”

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