It was over two years ago when USCA decided to replace the Steinway concert grand used at The Etherredge Center with a new one and contacted Turner’s to help guide them in this important investment. The facility brings some extremely talented artists to Aiken to perform, and the old 9-foot Steinway was in need of either major repair or replacement. With the aid of Sally Phillips, a master piano tuner/technician/rebuilder with over 40 years of experience, we suggested they do both and the journey was begun.
Shortly thereafter, I invited Judith Goodwin, USCA advancement officer extraordinaire, to attend a Steinway “Keys to Funding” seminar in New York City. There we were able to meet and learn from other institutions on how they raised the funds for purchasing these hand-crafted instruments. It was while Judith and I were at the airport waiting for our flight home that I suggested to her about having the school become an All Steinway School. We began to discuss all the benefits the All Steinway School status would bring. It would provide the students of USCA the ability to study music using the finest pianos in the world. It would aid in the school’s recruitment of students from all fields of interest and faculty who want to be a part of a school that wants to provide only the best. And it’s not only the music department that benefits. It’s been validated that over 78% of All Steinway schools have seen an increase in donor gifts to other non-music areas of their institutions. It was then that a new path for our journey was taken, one which would lead USCA to becoming the first public university in South Carolina to become “All Steinway.”
The fundraising began shortly thereafter and the following October we made the trip to the Steinway factory in New York. After a tour of the factory, we were taken to the Steinway selection hall where we were allowed to make a choice from five concert grands. Over the course of the next two or three hours, concert pianist Dr. Edvinas Minkstimas helped us select the handmade Steinway 9-foot Concert grand, which is now on stage at The Etherredge Center.
Over the next year, the Aiken community wholeheartedly endorsed this prestigious goal and contributed the funds required to purchase the remaining six pianos needed to be awarded the designation of “All Steinway School” by Steinway and Sons, New York. On Jan. 31st at the Winter Nocturne concert at The Etherredge Center, guest artist Dr. Edvinas Minkstimas performed on the Steinway concert grand he helped to select.
There in front of a packed house, Sally Coveleskie, Steinway & Sons Director of Higher Education Sales, made the official announcement and declared USCA as one of the 200 institutions across four continents named an “All Steinway School”. She presented the plaque to Dr. Sandra Jordan, Chancellor of USCA, and congratulated them on their achievement.
On Wednesday morning, Feb. 6th, 2019, we arrived at the campus to deliver the new Steinway designed pianos. We were met by a crowd of students, faculty, and donors, proudly wearing black and white Steinway T shirts clapping and cheering as we rolled the pianos off the truck and through the crowd! Cheerleaders were cheering and even Dr. Jordan grabbed a pompom, cheering us through the halls.
We all gathered in room 125 for a short piano recital by one of the talented students on the recently completed restoration of the previous 9 foot Steinway. Afterwards, I gave a brief talk to everyone about what it meant for USCA to become an All Steinway School and the future benefits that await for all.
Luckily for us, this isn’t the end of our journey with USCA. We’ve been honored to meet some really amazing people during this journey together. Thanks go to all of the “key” players : Ben Cox for starting us on this path, Dr. Sandra Jordan for her enthusiastic support, Beth Newburn for shaking the trees for donations, Drs. Joel Scraper and Mark Hollingsworth for their commitment to providing the students of USCA with only the best, Teddy Palmer for guarding and overseeing this new and precious cargo, and the amazing superwoman, Judith Blackwell Goodwin whose determination, grace, hard work, and tireless support of this endeavor truly brought it to fruition. It’s obvious to see how proud USCA is to be “All Steinway”, but it is WE who are honored to be a part of USCA!