Shenandoah University’s Critical Analysis Leads To A Sweet All-Steinway Celebration!

As seen in the Winter 2016 edition of the Steinway Chronicle.

WINCHESTER, VA – Michael Stepniak, Dean of Shenandoah University’s renowned  Shenandoah Conservatory, would be the first person to admit the All-Steinway School campaign was anything but a piece of cake. So after conducting a thorough academic exercise that included fact-checking missions to validate what Steinway & Sons was saying about its All-Steinway program, he knew the subsequent celebration merited something much more.
For a monumental symbol of excellence, the school reached out to Buddy Valastro and his popular television show, “Cake Boss.” Buddy and 10 co-workers at Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken N.J. handcrafted a Steinway Model B-sized cake sporting 120 pounds of black fondant. His custom-made confection was so gigantic it couldn’t fit into Ruebush Hall, where more than 200 well-wishers converged on a late September afternoon. The festivities then moved outdoors to a tent for a scrumptious conclusion.
In 2010, spearheaded by piano professors Dr. Karen Walker and Dr. Elizabeth Caluda, Shenandoah began a critical analysis aimed at improving its large fleet of instruments. Professors rolled in a Steinway and two other brands for a blind sound test with President Tracy Fitzsimmons while a staff member called on no fewer than 18 different All-Steinway schools.

Top Left: Eight hands - one Steinway! Students Annie Wong, Minji Lee, Anthony Cornet and Alexander Bernstein. Top Right: Sally Coveleskie and Ron Losby present the All-Steinway Schools plaque to President Tracy Fitzsimmons and Dean Michael Stepniak. Bottom Left: John O’Conor and the Shenandoah Conservatory Orchestra offered an exhilarating performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto“ at the All-Steinway celebration concert. Bottom Right: Rebekah Hade, at left, and Kathie Werner share a special bond to Shenandoah Conservatory’s designationas an All-Steinway School. Rebekah was one of the students who helped select three Steinway pianos for the Werner Suite, a student practice facility made possible by the generosity of Kathie and her husband, Rupert Werner.

We wanted the very best for our students.

“We looked at all the issues and options,” Dr. Stepniak told the audience. “We wanted to make sure every dollar counted. We ultimately chose Steinway because no path provided us with a similar opportunity to ensure the presence of quality instruments, to impact the quality of music making and to make a significant impact on recruiting,” he said.

Mitchell Moore, Vice President of Advancement and Planning, directed the $2.7 million campaign for 84 new pianos by Steinway & Sons from the Steinway Piano Gallery of Washington D.C. “We are extremely proud that Shenandoah Conservatory fully explored every benefit of the All-Steinway endeavor and allowed us to partner with them on this amazing journey,” said Ken Saliba, Executive Director of Institutional Sales.

President Fitzsimmons said Shenandoah University remains “consumed” by the pursuit of excellence. “That’s why we went with the All-Steinway program – because we wanted the very best for our students. This initiative didn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s  part of a larger series of projects that exemplifies our commitment to excellence. We will continue to partner with outstanding institutions like Steinway & Sons,” she said.

It’s going to enrich this community for generations to come. These gifts are gifts that will keep on giving.

A dedicated group of donors gifted $1.5 million while Shenandoah contributed $1.2 million to complete the four-year campaign. John O’Conor, Chair of the Keyboard Division and Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, said the All-Steinway designation will create a profound legacy. “It’s saying something about the level of musicianship we expect here, the teachers we have, and the respect for the Shenandoah Conservatory. I cannot express adequately my thanks to the people who gave the money for these Steinways because we couldn’t have done it without them. They have given us a present that will last for a long, long time.”
“This plan, this dream, this hope has turned into an extraordinary reality, and one that‘s even exceeded our expectations,” Dr. Stepniak acknowledged. “This is enriching our students’ lives now; it is enriching our community now. It’s going to enrich this community for generations to come. These gifts are gifts that will keep on giving.”
Officials at Shenandoah also wanted to give something back to the artisans at Steinway & Sons for the gift of their labors. So the sugary mass was returned to Carlo’s, where it was freshened with a new edible keyboard and delivered to the factory in Astoria. Shenandoah included 300 additional pieces of cake to be sure everyone shared in the celebration. The best celebrations, it seems, always end with something sweet.

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