HU Ogden Hall has a new, first-rate grand piano

By Alaya Boykin

Life without music could be sullen and stifling. Outlets of expression could be limited. Music is timeless, yet a continuous evolution, which is why music education in today’s world couldn’t be more important.

The new Steinway Model D grand piano in Ogden Hall on the campus of Hampton University sounds of abounding, rich color, allowing students more opportunities to enhance their talents and love for music to share with the community and beyond.

HU’s Department of Music received a $90,000 grant from the E.K. Sloane Fund of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation to cover approximately 90 percent of the costs in the purchase of a new Steinway Model D grand piano. The piano was moved into Ogden Hall.

The E.K. Sloane Fund gives money to colleges for new pianos. Hampton was able to trade in the old grand piano to the Steinway Company, where it will take the time to rebuild the instrument to extend its life span.

The old piano was built in 1922 and has been at the university for an extended period of time.  The old Steinway was getting harder to tune and the pitch wasn’t as sharp as it could have been.

Each Steinway piano takes nearly a year to create and is hand made, explained Carl Harris Jr., Ph.D., professor of music: “Every Steinway piano is built differently.”

The new Steinway Model D grand piano is approximately 9 feet long. “It was built just for the acoustics of Ogden Hall,” Harris said. He added that when fine artists are invited to come, the first thing they ask is, “What kind of piano do you have?”

A 9-foot grand piano is the standard size professional artists use. This size allows for a fuller sound and better tune quality.

“Any future piano recitals held in Ogden Hall will be greatly improved from the sound of the piano alone,” said Zane Shenk, a senior music recording major from Newport News, Va. “The piano projects its sound to the back of the hall nicely, filling Ogden with a clear and vibrant tone. It is truly a piece of art in and of itself.”

Hampton’s new piano was introduced at the Nov 13 performance of world-renowned pianist Leon Bates in Ogden Hall. “He’s of the finest pianists in this country,” Haris said. “We are honored to have had him come.”

Bates enjoys many genres of music but plays classical music. He is strong supporter of music education.

Several senior students were critiqued by Bates in a master class. It’s customary for special artists who come to Hampton to sit in on a master class.

“It gives students the opportunity to implement what they have learned in the classroom and in getting hands-on learning from a professional artist,” said Marvin Western, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of music.

“I was lucky enough to play in a master class held by Mr. Leon Bates,” Shenk said. “From the experience I can tell that he is an outstanding pianist and person.”

Stephanie Ward, a junior music education major from Atlanta, was also very excited to have  Bates christen the new piano. “As a world-renowned concert pianist, he is an inspiration to me because I am an aspiring concert pianist myself,” she said. “Having him come to Hampton and play on the new piano gives me even more motivation to reach my ultimate goal.”

As a musician Ward understands the magnitude of playing on a piano that of the highest quality. “He [Bates] has played with countless symphonies all over the world, and those same hands will be playing on the same piano that I too will play one day. That is profound! This truly means a lot to me,” she said.

The Sloane Fund is named after E. K. Sloane, a Norfolk arts patron who spent much of his adult life donating pianos anonymously to symphonies, arts organizations and colleges.

Upon his death in 1997, the Sloane Fund was created and has since purchased or repaired pianos at more than 56 organizations. It has provided more than $2.2. million in grants for organizations for pianos. The Sloane Fund is managed by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.

The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications