ANN ARBOR, MI – Once voters in the Ann Arbor Public Schools approved a multi-million dollar bond issue in 2015, decision-makers at Pioneer High School had a few options regarding new pianos. But there really was only one choice – a Steinway Model D Concert Grand handcrafted in New York. It was among 28 new Steinway and Steinway-designed pianos the district acquired from Steinway Piano Gallery of Detroit for all of its high schools and middle schools.
The Steinway Piano Gallery was one of three vendors bidding on a districtwide replacement and upgrade initiative for the performing arts. Fine Arts Coordinator Robin Bailey asked the vendors to deliver concert grands for a comprehensive test at Skyline High School, with similar comparisons in orchestra and band rooms for smaller grands and uprights.
The combined choirs of Brighton, Huron, Pioneer and Skyline high schools perform at historic Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor.
“More than 60 teachers listened to the instruments being played and each of them had an opportunity to play every instrument. At the end of the process, all the teachers and I were in agreement. Steinway was the best choice for our school district,” she said.
Ann Arbor is tremendously supportive of its schools and arts in particular. “This is evidenced by their approval of $3 million for new instruments with roughly $1 million being spent on these beautiful pianos,” she said.
“It was difficult to get the students away from the Steinway... I heard some of them saying ‘I love this piano, I could play it all day.’ ”
When the Model D arrived at Pioneer High, students and faculty were elated. “It was difficult to get the students away from the Steinway,” Ms. Bailey remembers. “I heard some of them saying ‘I love this piano, I could play it all day.’ ”
Wilbur Miller, Director of Institutional Sales at SPG-Detroit, evaluated each piano at more than 30 schools and found the instruments had an average age of 33 years. “Ann Arbor has Grammy-award winning public school programs but had only three Steinway pianos in the district. With the University of Michigan boasting more than 135 Steinway grands, I think it made sense to everyone that much like those students in higher education, the students in Ann Arbor’s public schools deserved only the finest instruments for the study of music,” he said.
“We knew Steinways were made by hand, but seeing the entire process from start to finish was exceptional.”
Selected at the Steinway factory, the Model D recently made its concert debut at Pioneer’s annual Choral Cavalcade. “Generations of students will have the opportunity to sing with this beautiful instrument, and we look forward to having it as part of the students’ experience for the next 100 years,” said Pioneer Choir Director Steven R. Lorenz, who participated in the selection process with Ms. Bailey and Orchestra Teacher Paul Bailey. “We knew Steinways were made by hand, but seeing the entire process from start to finish was exceptional,” Ms. Bailey said. “The care and attention to detail that each Steinway worker demonstrated for us was a delight to observe.”
Pioneer sophomore pianist Eden West is confident the new Model D will inspire all students. “I think just the name alone would motivate people since the Steinway brand is so respected,” she told The Pioneer Optimist.