The sound emanating from the piano is distinct, crisp and beautiful. The hands moving along the keys are graceful, and the atmosphere in the theatre is spellbound and serene.
Students were asked what they wanted from their Students’ Union and the overwhelming response was a coffee lounge and comfortable study zones.
Great instruments can transform the sound quality of a performance. Practicing on a piano of the calibre of a Steinway, the subtlety of the notes is laid bare and the performer is rewarded for delicacy of touch. The Steinway and Sons brand is renowned for its excellent tone, and musicians who have played the pianos recognise the difference such an instrument makes to a performance.
The University has recently taken delivery of 15 new pianos from the Steinway and Sons family. The instruments, which include a Steinway model C concert grand, are all housed in the new Performance Hub, a £10 million performing arts centre at Walsall Campus. The building opened its doors this academic year, and the lucky new and returning music students were greeted by the pianos for use in rehearsals, teaching and performance.
John Pymm, Dean of the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, travelled to Hamburg with the Head of the Music Department, Kevin Stannard, to personally select the four grand pianos. Both accomplished pianists, they were able to see how the pianos are made and sample a range of the instruments for themselves.
The University is now an All-Steinway School, a prestigious accolade recognising that 90% of the piano stock is from the Steinway family. Wolverhampton is only the third University in the UK to hold this status and the first in the West Midlands.
John explains that the University was keen to secure the pianos to enable students to experience performing on the celebrated instruments, which are located in top concert venues around the world, such as Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
He said: “Steinway pianos are beyond compare – they have a richness of tone which can really elevate the quality of a performance. Our students aspire to greatness, and by ensuring they have outstanding instruments to work on, we are giving them the best possible start to their music careers.
“As an All-Steinway School, we are listed among some of the great music institutions around the world. I have no doubt that this status and the high quality of teaching and facilities available at the Performance Hub will ensure we continue to recruit high calibre students locally, nationally and internationally.”
On delivery day, the 15 new pianos were gathered in the blackbox theatre and a group of undergraduate and postgraduate students were given a sneak preview of the brand new pianos.
Having tinkled the ivories for herself, second year BMus (Hons) student Vicki Ellam said: “It is just a whole new experience. It is playing a piano on a different level. They feel so different to a normal piano. The sound that comes out is just lovely.”
Samantha Dicken, also in her second year of the same course, agrees: “These are world renowned pianos. For all the students, it is a really big thing to play on a Steinway because they are such good pianos.”
For Keith Glazebrook, Sales Manager from Steinways and Sons UK, it is this response from students that makes the job of ensuring the safe delivery of the pianos such a worthwhile and rewarding process.
He says: “Seeing the excitement in the music students on the delivery day was very rewarding for us as a manufacturer, and we sincerely believe these new pianos will continue to inspire music students for many years to come.”
For more information about the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/sspal