SPRINGFIELD, MO – To further distinguish a venerable program at Missouri State University where more than 300 music majors must learn to play the piano, one of Dr. Julie Combs’s first orders of business was ordering a deep dive into the school’s outdated inventory.
Coming from All-Steinway Oklahoma State University in 2010, the head of the music department was intimately familiar with an initiative that could transform MSU into a much sought-after destination for a new generation of music students.
Harry Reed, Steinway piano specialist at Schmitt Music in Kansas City, meticulously evaluated every instrument on campus. “Dr. Combs knew there would be no cost or obligation and that we would be a strong advocate for the music department,” Reed said, noting most pianos were at least 50 years old. “The inventory analysis enabled us to nurture a long-term relationship with the school and offer resources to help her synergize with administrators, development staff and most importantly, donors.”
Left: At the Steinway factory, Dr. Minju Choi, Assistant Professor of Music, Dr. Wei-Han Su, professor of music, and Dr. Hye-Jung Hong, Associate Professor of Music; Harry Reed, Steinway piano specialist, Schmitt Music; Dr. Jeremy Chesman, Professor of Music, Dr. Shawn Wahl, Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, Dr. Julie Combs, music department head; Sally Coveleskie, National Director of Higher Education Sales, Steinway & Sons, and Tom Wennblom, Vice President, Schmitt Music.
Right: Hammons Fountains offer a spectacular centerpiece for the campus.
In 2015, MSU began a multi-million dollar facelift that dovetailed with the acquisition of 10 new Steinway designed Boston UP-126E Performance Edition uprights for practice rooms and teaching studios.
“With the beautiful renovation of our home, Ellis Hall, the installation of climate control and state-of-the-art performance spaces in C. Minor and Hamra Halls, becoming an All-Steinway School was the next logical step,” Dr. Combs said. “We are committed to giving our students and faculty the best quality equipment and spaces for the study of music and our audiences a world-class listening experience.”
Ellis Hall was rededicated Sept. 24th, 2017 with a seven-foot Steinway Model B in the June S. Hamra Recital Hall. Earlier, Sam and June Hamra joined music faculty to select the piano at the historic Steinway factory in Astoria. MSU then unveiled a nine-foot Steinway Model D concert grand at a public dedication ceremony featuring appearances by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Steinway CEO Ron Losby.
Building on a groundswell of support from administrators including President Clif Smart and Provost Frank Einhellig, the MSU Board of Governors approved a $1.6 million contract to purchase 52 Steinway & Sons pianos for Ellis Hall, Wehr Band Hall and the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. The school can now boast of having 66 of the latest Steinway & Sons pianos.
“Becoming an All-Steinway School puts Missouri State on the map for those who wish to practice and perform on the best pianos around the globe.”
“This is a game-changer,” noted Dr. Shawn Wahl, interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “It’s a transformational decision that will have a major impact of creating a destination arts campus at Missouri State University.”
Three piano faculty members who also toured the factory were unanimous in their consensus. Dr. Jeremy A. Chesman, professor of music, said that All-Steinway status “communicates to prospective students and the community that MSU is committed to the arts and willing to invest in quality infrastructure to support our work.”
Dr. Wei-Han Su, professor of music and keyboard area coordinator, said “current and future generations of students pursuing artistic excellence will have the finest instruments to explore nuances of sound, color and voicing.”
“These beautiful instruments will inspire our students in their artistic development and impact our community’s musical culture,” added Dr. Hye-Jung Hong, associate professor of music.
Parker Payne, a sophomore keyboard performance major, echoed the faculty’s sentiments. “Becoming an All-Steinway School puts Missouri State on the map for those who wish to practice and perform on the best pianos around the globe,” he said. “Steinways are of the highest quality and enhance our drive to fulfill our dreams of becoming professional musicians.”