TAMPA, FLORIDA – After she toured the Steinway & Sons factory in 2011, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft uttered prophetic words. “The enduring qualities of a Steinway make it a phenomenal gift to any student,” she said. “When you are buying a Steinway, you are buying something for a lifetime, even longer than a lifetime.”
USF had just christened a new music building and their inspirational leader desired nothing but the world’s finest pianos to join elite All-Steinway institutions around the globe.
Dr. Genshaft retired in July as the longest-tenured president in the 60-year history of USF, which made quantum leaps in academics, research, and economic development under her leadership. Since assuming her role in 2000, student enrollment grew by 40 percent and the four-year graduation rate tripled, according to the university.
But she reserved one final historic note for the School of Music. Raxit Shah, a Tampa entrepreneur specializing in commercial real estate investments, called her in search of a suitable home for a rare family heirloom. Given the Steinway affiliation, could there be a better place for an 1861 Steinway grand piano? Over the phone, Dr. Genshaft graciously accepted his offer.
“My family has been the owner and caretaker of this unique Steinway piano for the four past decades,” Mr. Shah said in a statement issued on behalf of himself and his wife, Ketki Shah. “It has provided the background to countless special moments in our home over this time. It is appropriate now to gift this history to the USF School of Music, so that others may create future memories alongside us.”
“This is a great piece of history to add to our wonderful collection of Steinways.”
The rosewood case piano was handcrafted just eight years after the company began operations in New York City. It was also the same year that William Steinway, a son of founder Heinrich Englehard Steinway, began his diary – 2,500 pages in nine volumes that became one of the most important documents in Steinway history. According to the Smithsonian Institute, “William was the entrepreneurial genius of his family. His promotional and marketing techniques, cultivation of eminent music, and extensive participation in the musical life of New York City made Steinway & Sons extraordinarily successful.”
“This is a great piece of history to add to our wonderful collection of Steinways,” says Svetozar Ivanov, USF music professor and director of the piano program at USF’s College of The Arts. “Even though this instrument won’t be played due to its extreme age, it’s very inspiring to have it in our collection as a museum piece and we are very grateful to the donor, Mr. Shah, for making this possible. As an All-Steinway School, it is a great symbol of the company’s distinguished past.”
A recently designated Steinway Artist, Ivanov is founder/director of the school’s Steinway Piano Series, which brings renowned international pianists to the university’s Barness Hall and Concert Hall.
“We have more than 100 pianos for performance and practice, but adding this magnificent piece brings a different light to the company and gives us a rich historical perspective on Steinway & Sons,” adds Dr. Bill Faucett, director of development at USF.
The Steinway Piano Series
Organizing a top-notch festival from scratch can be a daunting task with a host of challenges. But that is what made the first-ever Crane International Piano Festival at SUNY Potsdam so gratifying for Young-Ah Alyssa Tak.
The assistant professor of piano brought 14 gifted students to the exclusively All-Steinway Crane School of Music in July 2019. “I truly enjoyed getting to know these talented young pianists,” she says. “We have a long history with Steinway, and are fortunate to have excellent facilities and faculty and a learning environment that the students seemed to appreciate.” One participant confided in her mother that it was one of the greatest learning experiences of her life. “For her to say that means a lot to me,” says Young-Ah, a Steinway Spirio | r Artist. Composer Michael Sitton has served as Dean at the Crane School since 2009, and the institution holds the distinction of placing the largest order in Steinway history not once, but twice; in 1955, for 125 pianos, and in 2007, for 141 pianos.
“Project 21: Music for the 21st Century” has been bringing original works to life at All-Steinway Oklahoma City University since 1997. The brainchild of Dr. Edward Knight and a group of OCU composers, Project 21 is responsible for developing more than 1,200 contemporary compositions, most recently “Eight Works for Six Pianos.” Dr. Knight says “it was a rewarding experience for me to help students solve the difficulties of writing for so many pianos.” The concert featuring Project 21 and the OCU piano department, directed by Steinway Artist Dr. Sergio Monteiro, was held on April 13, 2018. Under Dean Mark Parker, the OCU became exclusively All-Steinway and holds the record for the single largest donation of 105 Steinway pianos gifted by Dr. Wanda Bass, for whom the school of music is named.