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Category Archives: Faculty Board

A Post-October 10 Reflection

The events of October 10, 2014 will resonate for me for the rest of my years at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  On that Friday, the School offered to the world a reborn Steinway Model A once owned by George Gershwin, and generously donated by his nephew Marc Gershwin.  All the anticipation, all the work had finally merged into programs offered at Hill Auditorium that featured the works of George and Ira Gershwin, and lauded the partnership between the U of M and the Gershwin Archives. That Friday, the SMTD also offered a view of itself as a […]

The Devil is in the Details

My piano restoration “brother” in the Gershwin Piano Restoration, Patrick DeBeliso, continually reminds me of the old adage:  “The Devil is in the Details”.  It’s a truism for so many things, and piano restoration is no exception.  Time and again, he and I have encountered “restored” pianos that have suffered from that one or two items, small as they may seem, that weren’t fixed, and yet have come to the fore and asserted themselves as a problem down the line.  The pedals, lyre, and trapwork always seem to fall victim to neglect.  Perhaps it’s because we put such emphasis on […]

Spring and Strings

It’s now April 2014 and we’re getting hints of Spring everywhere.  Aside from the welcome snowmelt, we’re seeing a little more green in the expanses of lawn across campus, and birds are chirping from the barren trees, claiming territory for the spring rituals of nest building and mating.  What a time of renewal! Such is the experience for the Gershwin Model A as well!  We now have strings!  And new keys! And a new hammer action!  It definitely is rebirth, a remaking of greatness. I visited PianoCrafters on Tuesday, April 1 to inspect the piano with its new strings, keyboard […]

The Soundboard: Heart of the Piano

In my earlier article about restoring an historic instrument, I promised to talk a little about soundboards specifically.  It’s a topic that can fill volumes, and goodness knows that piano technicians talk about soundboards a great deal.  Everyone has an opinion, of course, and that includes me! Of course, whenever the owner of a revered piano hears about soundboard replacement, there is concern that the piano won’t sound like it used to.  I think this is due to a certain urban myth about pianos and soundboards that gave rise to the phrase “the soundboard is the soul of the piano”. […]

A Legacy to Preserve; the thorny question of piano restoration

Original Keyboard and Action of the George Gershwin piano. Having received the Gershwin piano in the Piano Technology Shop in the Moore Building, the thorny question of restoration confronts us.  How does one go about the rehabilitation of an instrument that is old while preserving its essence?  We’ve had a bit of experience with this in the past.  In fact, three examples of what and how we go about the restoration of an historical instrument can be found right on campus.  The first is the Elizabeth Gould Hochmann Steinway Model B which is on permanent loan to the University of […]

‘S Wonderful! We’re Going To Get a Gershwin Piano!

The e-mail from Marc Gershwin began with a simple opening: “Dear Bob, I am pleased to let you know that I would definitely like to donate the piano to the U of M.” That’s all I needed to know.  We were going to be the lucky beneficiaries of a major gift; the last one of three pianos owned by George Gershwin, a long Model A Steinway grand piano that he purchased in 1933.  Wow! It wasn’t necessarily a sure thing.  The process began with an inquiry from the dean’s office about whether I knew any appraisers in New York who […]

Journey to a New Home: The Gershwin Steinway Comes to Ann Arbor

Nothing quite matches the anticipation of a long-awaited item arriving by mail or UPS or Wells Fargo Wagon…or so goes the sentiment behind the song in “The Music Man” (forgive me the reference to a composition not by George or Ira Gershwin).  But that’s  the feeling I had when the semi truck from Modern Piano Movers pulled in to the Moore Building parking lot of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance at 8:30 p.m. on April 13, 2013.  It was really “something special” to see that 75-foot vehicle pull in and unload George Gershwin’s prized Model […]

On the Fringe of Fire—The Music of George Gershwin without Boundaries

George Gershwin was among the world’s first “Crossover Artists,” a master of not only opera, stage, and screen, but as well, of melding the styles of popular jazz with those more traditionally identified in the symphonic orchestra. As such, his music invites new and fresh interpretation, while still retaining the essence of Gershwin’s own artistic identity. Jazz trumpet professor Bill Lucas leads the project and points out: “As a Symphonic musician with serious jazz roots, it is often difficult to have to play Gershwin’s music within the orchestra, so straight laced, without any of the tools a jazz musician is […]

The Gershwin Piano @ U-M SMTD

This summer an incredible delivery arrived at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance — George Gershwin’s 1933 Steinway grand piano!!! The composer’s nephew, Marc George Gershwin, was moving from his longtime NYC apartment and the burgeoning collaboration with the University gave him a place to send the instrument—a new home in which the piano would not only be cherished but where it would be used regularly in performance. The instrument is a relatively rare Steinway “Long A” model, which has exceptional sound characteristics for its size (6′ 4″). We’ve played the piano just a bit and […]