SCITUATE, MA – The finale was a Gershwin tune, but for Jim Thomas, true delight was just beginning. In the excited aftermath of Scituate High School’s Spring Concert, students of all ages lined up for a chance to play its brand new Steinway Model D concert grand piano. Displaying profound respect and a sense of wonder, they sat down and regaled the SHS Fine Arts Chair with personal narratives before launching into familiar phrases of whatever composition was most meaningful to them.
“Those are the moments I really cherish,” said Thomas, one in a team who lobbied for the Steinway to complete Scituate’s majestic Performing Arts Center in the classic New England seashore town between Boston and Plymouth. “It’s like a mini-concert after the concert. Serious piano students are always itching to play it, and we try to provide as many opportunities as possible.”
Thomas came on board three years ago when plans for the new multi-million dollar PAC were well underway. “Some of the materials were decided on early in the process, but the piano wasn’t one of them. We discussed using a Boston grand, but I had no idea a Steinway Model D would be our eventuality.”
“There was a feeling that if we could invest in an Astroturf field, then why not a Steinway D that can last for more than 50 years?”
When that idea started gaining traction, Thomas and Choral Conductor Bill Richter were working with Brendan Murphy, Vice President and Director of Institutional Sales at M. Steinert & Sons, to secure two new Boston uprights. Steinert provided a detailed inventory analysis of every piano in the district. With support from then-Superintendent John McCarthy, the School Building Committee and in particular one of its longest-standing members, Michael Hayes, SHS moved closer to obtaining a world-class instrument. Although some felt the purchase too extravagant, Thomas pointed out that other items in the PAC – including a state-of-the-art mobile shell system – had exceeded the cost of the piano. Scituate had also upgraded its athletic facilities. “There was a feeling that if we could invest in an Astroturf field, then why not a Steinway D that can last for more than 50 years?”
Murphy, who usually handles sales for higher education, took special interest in the high school project. A 1999 alumnus and one of Richter’s former students, he recently purchased a home in Scituate and has two sons who may follow his footsteps into the halls of SHS. After the district’s decision was made, Murphy hosted Thomas, Richter, co-band director Adam Gruschow and accompanist Vickie Schlosser on a tour of the historic Steinway factory in Queens, where the group faced an enviable task of choosing the perfect Model D.
“Brendan was phenomenal,” Thomas said. “Once we got the momentum, he came to our team and talked extensively about investing in the quality, longevity and durability of a Steinway concert grand piano. He made it obvious that kids are important, and this is something that maybe they deserve.”
As the SHS student newspaper surmised: “The new Scituate Center for the Performing Arts represents a huge step forward for the promotion of music in the community, and the new Steinway D concert grand matches this commitment measure for measure.”