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‘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 could place a value on an historic piano.  I put forward the name of a colleague at the Steinway factory in Astoria, Queens, New York.  It was mid-March and a May deadline loomed for settling the matter of the piano’s status.  That’s when the apartment in which it resided would be handed over to new owners.

But first, some relevant facts, then a question from the dean’s office:  “Marc Gershwin, may wish to donate the piano to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  He’s contemplating whether the instrument might represent the “icing on the cake” in the relationship recently negotiated between the School and the Gershwin Archives on a new and exclusive “critical edition” of Gershwin’s music.  We don’t know the piano’s condition, but do you think we should go for it?” This Steinway piano is the last of three fine instruments on which some of the greatest American music was composed.  The first two went to the Library of Congress and the American Songwriters Hall of Fame.

My reply:  “Absolutely, without a doubt, YES!”  Thus began the process of making the case for the SMTD.

With the dean’s green light, I exchanged e-mails, and later phone calls with Mr. Gershwin. It sounded as if he was leaning in our direction from the start.  On Friday, April 5 I sent him a note apologizing for any imposition, but wanting to make a “last pitch” on behalf of the SMTD.  His final e-mail with news of his decision came after an especially long weekend of “wait and see.”

The long weekend now concluded with that simple sentence.  This last piano cements a relationship.  This last piano comes to the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance!   Go, Rhapsody in Blue!