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September 30, 2019

Eight "New" Steinway Pianos Make Their Debut at CIM


Piano celebration

Sounds of Beethoven’s Turkish March filled the air as the Cleveland Institute of Music welcomed the arrival of eight “new” Steinway pianos to its repertoire.

While the pianos aren’t off-the-showroom floor new, they are new to CIM. A generous gift from the Albert M. Higley Co. of Cleveland enabled CIM to purchase the beautiful instruments – each less than 20 years old – which were lovingly refurbished by Lindeblad Piano Restorers of New Jersey and delivered to CIM on Friday, September 27.

The pianos were dedicated in a ceremony in memory of Bruce Higley, the late AMHigley president and CEO and CIM Trustee who passed away in May.  

A gathering of students, faculty, staff and executives from AMHigley and Lindeblad watched on the Kulas Hall stage as CIM piano students Hin Sing Au (Pompa-Baldi), Chi Chun Chang (Pompa-Baldi), Jiarui Cheng (Brown), Jennifer Chrysantha (Pompa-Baldi), Jinyi Hu (Brown), Junghye Lim (Brown), Muyu Liu (Pompa-Baldi) and Joyce Yu (Pompa-Baldi) performed Beethoven’s famous piece – on all eight pianos at the same time.

Paul W. Hogle, CIM president and CEO; Gareth D. Vaughan, AMHigley president and CEO; and Kathryn Brown, CIM piano faculty and head of the piano department and keyboard division, each provided brief remarks. New CIM Trustee Ann Higley and Sharon Watts, Bruce Higley’s wife and sister, respectively, joined Hogle, Vaughan, Brown and other officials from AMHigley and Lindeblad to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

“My thanks to Gareth and the Higley Company for this deeply meaningful gift that will transform our student experience,” Hogle said. “It is a wonderful way to honor Bruce’s memory and demonstrates not only AMHigley’s commitment to advancing the CIM standard of excellence in classical music education, but also their confidence in our mission to empower the world’s most talented classical music students to fulfill their dreams and potential.”

Vaughan reflected on Bruce Higley’s life and said he was struck by three words from CIM’s mission – words he knows Higley would have loved.

“Music, education, global,” Vaughan said. “Bruce loved music – especially classical music. He had a passion for education, particularly for those education does not come easy to. He cared about access to education. He also loved diverse cultures, and one of the many aspects he loved about CIM was that students come here from all over the world.”

Generous gifts of pianos to CIM aren’t new to the Higley family. Their 100-plus year-old Steinway was donated by Ann Higley and soon will make its permanent home in the president’s office following a mechanical restoration.

In January 2019, the Higleys donated funding to provide CIM students and faculty with another “new” Steinway. Because of that gift, CIM piano technicians artfully restored a 32-year-old satin ebony Steinway and Sons Model D piano, which was personally selected in 1987 by famed pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy to be sent to Cleveland’s Severance Hall. The piano now graces the stage of CIM’s Mixon Hall.

Brown remembered when the Higleys visited CIM in January.

“I saw the gleam in Bruce’s eye as the piano was played,” Brown said. “You could see how much he loved music. The impact [of these new pianos] for students is immense. These instruments will benefit our piano, collaborative piano, voice, string, brass and other majors, providing the best possible training for all. Upgrading eight of our practice room pianos means a significantly better experience for the long hours of practice that our students log each day.”   

Hogle acknowledged the work of Kim Speiran, CIM’s lead piano technician, who carefully identified, studied, selected and orchestrated their arrival at CIM. “Kim oversaw every detail of their delivery and preparation,” Hogle said.  

CIM’s strategic plan, Blueprint:100, called for the Institute to update its piano inventory and reduce their average age. Originally built between 1999 to 2006, the pianos bring the average age of the Institute’s piano inventory from 58-years-old to 55. The new pianos include four Model L (one in figured sapele), two Model O (one in walnut), and one each of Model A and Model M. An additional 20 artist benches were also added to CIM’s inventory as a result of this gift. 

Steinway pianos are renowned as the piano of choice in conservatories, music schools and concert halls around the world. CIM has been teaching and performing with Steinways since its beginnings in 1920 and was among the first conservatories to be designated a prestigious All-Steinway School more than 20 years ago. At an All-Steinway School each student is guaranteed to perform and rehearse on Steinway instruments.