Six years ago, Amanda Watson was a recent arrival from Chicago, taking on a new role as a sales representative at Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston. She was looking for opportunities to connect with the local music community when a duo of piano teachers—who felt uncomfortable driving through downtown Houston’s intimidating traffic—asked Amanda for a ride to a Steinway-hosted breakfast for area music educators. A friendship was born, and Amanda soon found herself enjoying monthly tea-time with the women, one of whom, as it would turn out, was the regional representative for ABRSM, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. The seeds for a unique collaboration between two musical giants—ABRSM and Steinway & Sons—were sown.
Steinway is, of course, a global musical icon. Founded in New York City in 1853, Steinway is well known not just as the manufacturer of the world’s finest pianos, but also as a fervent champion of music education. Ever since Doretta Steinway, daughter of the founder, taught piano lessons to prospective piano buyers in the nineteenth century, the company has been committed to making high-quality piano education accessible to students the world over.
“We see a real synergy in joining forces to serve this community.”
Founded in 1889, London-based ABRSM is the world’s largest and most diverse musical examining body. The organization hosts nearly 660,000 exams each year in more than 93 countries around the world. It is the examining board for four renowned royal schools of music: The Royal Academy of Music in London, The Royal College of Music in London, The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.
Both of these historical musical institutions have a robust presence in Texas, where Steinway operates five unique locations and where ABRSM offers curriculum, exams and resources in Dallas, Austin, and Houston. Which brings us back to tea-time: when the former Houston ABRSM representative was approaching retirement, she asked Amanda for suggestions for a replacement. Amanda was quick to recommend Natalie Voogt, an accomplished local piano teacher, a world-travelled artist, and the director of Houston’s Campbell Learning Center, a Steinway Select Studio. Natalie now serves as the ABRSM International Representative for the entire Texas region, including Houston, and she and Amanda have put their heads together to develop programs and resources that will take the Steinway-ABRSM collaboration to a next-level partnership offering immense support to the Houston music education community.
“Many of my clients are the same teachers who are preparing their students for ABRSM exams and are also interested in the same events,” Amanda said. “So it just makes sense that we collaborate. We see a real synergy in joining forces to serve this community.”
Natalie agrees. “Our main focus is to see how we can mutually benefit the local music community,” she said. “We’re working together to provide opportunities for music teachers who are preparing students either privately or through their school systems. We want both ABRSM and Steinway to be visible and vibrant as a resource for Houston teachers.”
ABRSM’s mission is to inspire achievement in music, and to invest in the next generation of teachers, performers, composers, and leaders. And, as Amanda explains, connecting ABRSM with Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston means that the organization will have access to exciting venues and the world’s finest pianos for ABRSM programming.
“Even considering the limitations imposed by the pandemic this year, I’m very excited to think about the programs, classes, and resources we’ll be developing together.”
“Our Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston locations are very special,” Amanda points out. “The downtown Steinway Selection Center, in particular, is an invitation-only venue. So it makes it very meaningful when a student gets invited and when we have new audiences experience the location. ABRSM teachers and students who have access to the Selection Center will be surrounded by Steinway concert grands, with wonderful acoustics and a big-city feel. It’s a very exciting and special venue. ABRSM will be able to host events here to highlight their high-scoring students or even to record on Spirio. This is an experience that they cannot find anywhere else in Houston.”
ABRSM and Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston also have plans in the works for collaboration on master classes featuring veteran ABRSM instructors or visiting Steinway Artists. “Again, it’s about providing resources to the Houston piano community that might not otherwise be available outside of this partnership,” Natalie said. “Even considering the limitations imposed by the pandemic this year, I’m very excited to think about the programs, classes, and resources we’ll be developing together.”
Following the rollout of the partnership between Steinway Piano Gallery of Houston and ABRSM, Steinway & Sons will explore opportunities to extend the partnership throughout North America.