“Now we have a piano that remembers human expression”
PHILADELPHIA, PA – As a young prodigy, Ray Ushikubo dreamed of performing sonatas for piano and violin by himself – a feat the Curtis Institute of Music student not only accomplished with aplomb but exceeded in his expectations using Steinway’s Spirio | r technology.
The novel October 2019 recital at Curtis was part of Philadelphia Music Week and B. PHL, a citywide festival aimed at inspiring innovative ideas for businesses, industries, and entrepreneurs. Jacobs Music provided a majestic Model D Spirio | r concert grand for the event.
Ushikubo, 18, played both instruments at Carnegie Hall when he was just nine-years-old, but not like he did at Field Concert Hall. Using Spirio | r’s live performance capture, the Japanese-American artist sparkled through Mozart’s Allegro Con Spirito from Sonata in G Major, K.301. “In the past, I used to play with an audio or video recording of myself, but frankly the sound is just so different in a digital recording,” he says. “The Spirio | r, however, is an actual piano that is essentially being played by myself. ‘Me’ giving a live performance of ‘me’ was so much fun!”
Studying piano with the legendary Gary Graffman and Robert McDonald, Ushikubo says he is looking forward to more solo collaboration performances and recordings. “As a student, I learned so much about the way I play by listening to me on Spirio. Musicians never get to hear themselves from the audience’s perspective. With Spirio, however, I can listen to myself from every vantage point in the audience. It is a truly valuable experience,” he adds.
“Musicians never get to hear themselves from the audience’s perspective. With Spirio, however, I can listen to myself from every vantage point in the audience. It is a truly valuable experience,”
David Serkin Ludwig, whom The Philadelphia Inquirer calls “a composer with something urgent to say,” began the festivities by delving into the history of music as it relates to technology. He took the audience through the early bending of woods and metals in creating instruments to advances in music printing and musical innovations, culminating in Spirio | r.
Chair of composition studies at Curtis, Ludwig hails from generations of eminent musicians including his grandfather, Steinway Immortal Rudolph Serkin. “As a composer, I am intrigued by what Spirio can do as an electronic instrument with an acoustic memory,” Ludwig says. “The applications of such an instrument are waiting to be explored as a means of extending the capabilities of one player or many musicians working in an ensemble. Now we have a piano that remembers human expression.”
“As a composer, I am intrigued by what Spirio can do as an electronic instrument with an acoustic memory... Now we have a piano that remembers human expression.”
Following the recital, Chief Piano Technician Jon Guenther and Jacobs Senior Vice President Robert Rinaldi visited the Steinway factory, where Guenther selected a new Model D Spirio | r, making Curtis the world’s first conservatory to embrace Steinway’s latest innovation. Curtis and Jacobs have been partners for more than 30 years.
“Curtis’s decision demonstrates a forward-thinking approach and commitment to providing cutting-edge tools to educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians at the highest level of artistry,” says Rinaldi. “Given the nearly infinite level of reproduction that is unique to Spirio | r, the performance opportunities now available to students and faculty are endless. And we haven’t even begun to contemplate the unparalleled possibilities for composers.”
Since its founding in 1924, Curtis has been an All-Steinway School and established a policy in 1928 that still provides full-tuition scholarships to all students based on artistic talent and potential. The Curtis Promise, as it is known, assures students that they will have a Steinway grand piano for use throughout their studies.