What’s a great concert hall without great pianos? Chapman University’s new Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts has entered a new realm of rarified musical eminence with the delivery of three glossy new Steinway grand pianos. The trio of instruments, dubbed the Dale E. and Sarah Ann Fowler Steinway Grand Piano Collection in honor of their generous donors, will be used on the concert stage by Chapman student and faculty pianists as well as by outstanding visiting performers from around the world.
“The collection consists of two Model D nine-foot concert grands and one Model B 7-foot semi-concert grand,” said Steve Likens, general manager of Fields Pianos in Santa Ana, who supervised the delivery of the instruments. He estimated their collective value as in excess of $400,000.
So how does a piano delivery go? Very carefully, as it turns out — but also surprisingly quickly. The pianos arrived in the back of a truck, laid upon their sides and swaddled with protective quilting. Their legs and pedals had been detached and were packed separately.
Workmen quickly wheeled each piano out of the truck, down a ramp and into the Musco Center, where they were loaded into a freight elevator and taken down to stage level (the north, or stage, side of the Center is partially below ground). Backstage, it’s a very different world from the glittering spaces where the audience gathers — it’s a utilitarian world for the performing artists, with dressing rooms, a performers’ lounge…and a piano storage room, where the three new pianos were reunited with their legs and pedals and set upright.
Asked if the move and the wheeling-around affected the piano’s tuning, Likens said it didn’t matter too much as long as the piano is professionally and properly moved. What’s more important, he said, is that the instruments receive a period of time in which to acclimate to the atmosphere and temperature of their new home. They were shrouded again in their padded covers, with their benches pushed close to them, and were locked inside the storage room to rest and acclimate. “A fine musical instrument is like a living thing; it reacts to humidity and other changes in atmosphere, so the acclimation period is very important,” Likens explained.
Since its founding in 1853, the German and American piano company Steinway and Sons has been one of the most famous instrument-makers in the world, renowned for making high-end pianos of the finest quality.
“The arrival of these epic instruments marks a new page at Chapman,” said Grace Fong, D.M., associate professor of music and Director of Piano Studies in Chapman University’s Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music. “I grew up with Steinways, so I’m excited to welcome these newest ‘family members,’ and to fill the new hall with the soul of these pianos. For a long time to come, our piano students, faculty and the world-renowned pianists of the Musco Distinguished Piano Series will enthusiastically grace these keys, and this would not be possible without the generous contributions of Dale and Ann Fowler, to whom we are so grateful. The piano is my voice, and I can’t wait to sing!”