January 23, 2019

Generous Donation to CIM From Bruce and Ann Higley Keeps "Ashkenazy Piano" in Cleveland

"New" Steinway piano
Left to right: Ann and Bruce Higley, Kathryn Brown and Leo Gevisser

A generous donation from Cleveland Institute of Music Trustee Bruce Higley and his wife Ann has provided CIM students and faculty with a “new” Steinway.   

Because of the Higleys’ gift, CIM piano technician Jeff Krill artfully restored a 32-year-old, satin ebony Steinway and Sons Model D piano to its previous glory. The piano now sits grandly on the stage of Mixon Hall, ready for more performances. 

The Higleys “met” the piano Wednesday, January 16, in Mixon Hall and were gifted in return with a brief piano recital by CIM Young Artist Program student Leo Gevisser, 16, of Shaker Heights. Gevisser studies with Kathryn Brown, head of CIM’s piano department.  

“One name you’ll never see playing the piano is Bruce Higley,” Higley quipped to laughter by other guests as Krill was describing to him and his wife the piano’s storied history and the number of renowned performers who have played it. “Seriously, though, Ann and I are thrilled to be able to do this for the students and faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music.”  

Selected personally in 1987 by internationally-renowned pianist, Grammy winner and Steinway artist Vladimir Ashkenazy to be sent to Cleveland’s Severance Hall, the piano has been played by the likes of CIM's and The Cleveland Orchestra’s own Joela Jones and such soloists as Lang Lang, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, David Gray and Yefim Bronfman. 

“The piano was chosen at the factory by Ashkenazy and sent to Severance Hall for a final decision,” Krill said. “It was, of course, their final selection. The Ashkenazy piano came to Severance Hall shortly after I was hired by the orchestra, so I have taken care of it for 30-plus years. Joela used it in the orchestra for most of that time.” 

CIM President and CEO Paul W. Hogle praised the Higleys for their commitment to classical music education and the Institute’s students and faculty. He told them that this type of support will help CIM students master their craft, adding that “mastery can be thought of as the unique way students can fully actualize their potential for greatness and enjoy a fulfilling life.

“The three things required for mastery are family support, quality materials to use, and masterful teaching,” Hogle said, quoting from a book he recently read, Drive by Daniel H. Pink. “You (the Higleys) have provided us with the support and the quality materials to use. Our students will benefit by the masterful teaching of our faculty.”  

Referring to its former nickname as the “Ashkenazy piano,” after the famous pianist, Hogle gave the Steinway a new name.

“Thanks to Bruce and Ann’s wonderful gift, students and faculty will be able to perform their best works on the beautiful ‘Higley piano’ for years to come,” he said.