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U-M Unveils Historic Gershwin Piano at Free Public Concert


A fully restored 1933 Model A Steinway piano, previously owned and played by George Gershwin, will be unveiled by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) at a free public concert in Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Friday, October 10 at 8:30 p.m.

The piano was donated to the school in 2013 by Marc Gershwin, George's nephew, as a crowning gesture of partnership between the Gershwin families and U-M during the creation of the U-M Gershwin Initiative. Announced last year, the Initiative provides U-M with complete access to the Gershwin archives to develop the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition-the first-ever scholarly edition of the Gershwins' music-as well as student performances, new courses and scholarly symposia of national reach and impact.

Featuring a wide spectrum of music by George and Ira Gershwin, the multi-disciplinary concert, performed by students and faculty, will highlight the piano and reflect the many genres at which the Gershwins' excelled–including classical music, jazz, opera, musical theatre and dance–all of which have renowned performance programs at SMTD. Included will be some of the Gershwins' most celebrated works, such as Three Preludes, selections from Porgy and Bess, and the first performance of the critical edition draft of Rhapsody in Blue, featuring the original jazz orchestration from the work's 1924 debut by the Paul Whiteman Band.

In addition, audience members will learn about the piano restoration from Robert Grijalva, director and assistant professor of piano technology, who oversaw the restoration, and Mark Clague, associate professor of musicology and editor-in-chief of the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition.

"As plans for the U-M Gershwin Initiative evolved, I realized that the University of Michigan would be the ideal home for my uncle's Steinway," said Marc Gershwin. "I wanted the instrument to be accessible to the students and faculty who would be preserving the legacy of George and Ira Gershwin's music through this important initiative. I'm delighted that the piano will once again be in regular use, and am thrilled that it has been restored to performance condition."

"The opportunity to perform on George Gershwin's piano will be extraordinarily inspirational for our students and faculty," said Christopher Kendall, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. "We are so grateful to Marc for his generosity, and to the entire Gershwin family for their vision and commitment to ensuring that the music of their remarkable forbears will be preserved through the U-M Gershwin Initiative. This concert will be the first of many at SMTD to celebrate the Gershwins' music with exciting, historically informed performances."

A pre-concert talk (beginning 7:30 p.m.) will feature musicologists Ryan Banagale (Colorado College), the volume editor of the Rhapsody in Blue edition and the author of Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon), and Richard Crawford, U-M Professor Emeritus of Musicology and renowned Gershwin scholar, who is currently completing a book titled Summertime: George Gershwin's Life in Music.

To further explore the piano's illustrious history and exacting restoration, a panel discussion will take place at Hill Auditorium, also on October 10, at 2:30 p.m. Participants will include Grijalva, Banagale, and Clague, as well as Marc Gershwin and Mike Strunsky, nephew of Ira Gershwin. The event is free and open to the public.

After George's untimely death in 1937, the U-M Gershwin piano resided in the New York City apartment of George's mother Rose Gershwin. Following her death in 1948, Marc Gershwin's parents, Arthur and Judy, occupied the apartment. Almost never played during this period, the piano did not move from the apartment until it left for Ann Arbor in the spring of 2013.  

The U-M instrument is one of three Gershwin pianos in the United States; the others are housed in the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C. and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in New York. Steinway's records indicate that George Gershwin took delivery of the piano in January 1934 while preparing for the tenth anniversary tour of Rhapsody in Blue. It is presumed that he used the instrument to produce portions of Porgy and Bess, first performed in 1935.

In partnership with Patrick DeBeliso, proprietor and master artisan/craftsman of PianoCrafters, Inc., of Plymouth, Michigan, the Gershwin piano has undergone several hundred hours of careful rehabilitation to restore it to playable condition. The instrument received a new soundboard (handcrafted to duplicate the original, which suffered from both age-related deterioration and an irreparable crack), strings, keyboard, hammer and damper actions. The exterior of the piano was not refinished, though the case was cleaned to remove decades of dirt and grime.

"It will retain the look of a piano that was used by a great composer," explained Robert Grijalva. "A bit worn around the edges, but otherwise presentable." Grijalva and DeBeliso documented the year-long restoration process, and the challenges faced by the technicians, in a blog on the U-M Gershwin Initiative website.

The piano's original keyboard and action are being preserved for public viewing at the E.V. Moore Building, SMTD's main facility for music studies. The building is currently undergoing an extensive renovation and expansion, scheduled for completion in fall 2015, and the piano's permanent home will be in the new addition, the William K. and Delores S. Brehm Pavilion.

The Gershwin piano is now the fourth historic piano to undergo a major renovation at U-M and reside on campus. It joins the Elizabeth Gould Hochmann Steinway Model B, on permanent loan to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, featuring a case design that is a copy of the first Steinway piano ever built; the Martha Cook Steinway Model A, built in 1913, in the Martha Cook dormitory; and, in the President's residence, the Brescoll Steinway Model C, the oldest Steinway on campus, built in 1880 and formerly owned by the manager of Carnegie Hall, in New York City.


Watch a VIDEO in which faculty and students discuss restoring and performing on the George Gershwin Steinway piano.

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November 2015
October 2014

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July 2014

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Dance, Peter Sparling is a recipient of a Distinguished University Professorship. Effective September 1, Sparling will be a Rudolf Arnheim Distinguished University Professor. This appointment is one of the highest honors the University can bestow upon a faculty member.   07/18/2014

Professor Patricia Hall will be presenting her paper, "Alban Berg's 'Guilt' by Association to the Music, Censorship and Meaning in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union conference at the Colburn School in Los Angeles this August.   07/12/2014

April 2014

Prof. Ed Sarath Receives U-M's "Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award" 04/21/2014

Professor Kuster Wins Prestigious OPERA America Grant 04/04/2014

Professor Mukherji to Speak in London this July 04/04/2014

Áine Heneghan, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, will present her research on Schoenberg's Formenlehre at the following conferences, all in 2014: Music Theory Midwest (Appleton, WI), the Eighteenth Biennial International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music (Toronto, Canada), EuroMAC (Leuven, Belgium), and the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory (Milwaukee).   04/01/2014

March 2014

U-M UpstART Festival Begins 03/31/2014

A Multimedia Installation on Climate Change 03/28/2014

Wayne Petty, Associate Professor of Music Theory, will read his paper, "Some Multimovement Designs in C. P. E. Bach's Late Keyboard Sonatas" at the Seventh EuroMac conference, which will gather scholars from all music theory societies in Europe in Leuven, Belgium, from 17 to 21 September, 2014.  An adaptation of the paper will be presented to the Society for Music Theory in Milwaukee in the Fall of 2014.   03/26/2014

Walter Everett, Professor of Music Theory, announces the publication of Los Beatles como músicos: De Revolver de la Antología (Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia, 2013), the Spanish translation of his The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology (Oxford University Press, 1999).   03/21/2014

Celebration of Professor George Shirley's 80th Birthday 03/19/2014

Prof. Korsyn presents keynote in The Hague, serves in scholarly appointments 03/14/2014

December 2013

In January 2014 Professor Wayne Petty will read the paper, "Wilhelm Fischer and the Fortspinnung-type Sonata Exposition," at the Seventh International Conference on Music Theory in Tallin and Pärnu, Estonia.  The conference theme is "Musical Form: Mapping the Territories."   12/17/2013

AmeriGrove II, edited by Professor Charles Garrett, is published 12/13/2013

November 2013

Gosman Presents Beethoven Research 11/16/2013

Department of Music Theory Announces Visiting Speakers of 2014 11/16/2013

Everett Launches Beatles Observances 11/16/2013

Interarts professor Holly Hughes presents The Dog and Pony Show (Bring Your Own Pony) in a webcast performance at the Chicago Humanities Festival on Mon., Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Her newest performance work, the piece offers a poetic and comic meditation on midlife crises in the key of canine.   11/01/2013

September 2013

SMTD Welcomes New Faculty 09/27/2013

Ramon Satyendra, associate professor of music theory, has published his essay, "Morphisms of Generalized Interval Systems and PR-Groups" (co-authored with Thomas Fiore and Thomas Noll), in Journal of Mathematics and Music 7/1.   09/20/2013

Alan Gosman Co-authors New Beethoven Book 09/06/2013

July 2013

Professor Ashley Lucas and three Theatre & Drama students are engaged in an intensive exchange program with UniRio in Rio de Janiero, Brazil this summer, where they are blogging about their experiences in UniRio's prison arts program and more.   07/12/2013

June 2013

SMTD Mourns Professor Emeritus Erling Bengtsson 06/10/2013

Holly Hughes, professor of interarts performance in the Department of Theatre & Drama, was profiled in Hyperallergic, an online magazine about art and culture, which included a Q&A with Hughes about her role as one of the "NEA Four."   06/06/2013

Music theory professor Walter Everett's role as an expert on the music of the Beatles was the subject of an article in      06/06/2013

Hall presents in Copenhagen 06/03/2013

May 2013

Robert Hurst, associate professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation, was featured in a Q&A article in on the occasion of the release of his new CD, BOB: a palindrome.   05/01/2013

November 2012
November 2011
February 2010
George Gershwin at piano that was donated to SMTD. (Photo courtesy of the Ira Gershwin Archive)
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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower