I have been fortunate enough to teach piano at the University of Pretoria for the past 10 years. My input at the Departement of Music, stretches much further than piano tuition, improvisation and methodology, but for the extended part of my duties there is no job descprition. Let me start at the beginning:
It is not uncommon for artists to occasionally have some sort of obsession with nature, food or the odd person. In my case the object of my obsession has forever been the three-legged love of my life: the grand piano. I adore these instruments in a way that only my mother can comprehend. I am not the type of pianist who is obsessed with playing on the instrument only, but learning more about how they are built and talking to piano technicians about the tricks that make the world’s best instruments sound the way they do is what makes me tick. Dreaming of owning a new concert grand is my favourite past time. Not that this makes me ungrateful for my current beloved vintage Steinway.
As a devout Steinway Artist my fascination with these handcrafted instruments stretches a little further than the average enthusiast. For this reason the care and maintenance of the 9 Steinways at the University is very much my business (not that anybody asked me). I liaise with piano technicians, artists, lecturers and carefully note the needs and desires of each in an endevour to satisfy the needs of the artists and the instruments.
After realising how long the average life span of a hard-working concert grand is I approached the University of Pretoria management in the latter part of 2010 about the possibility of acquiring one more Model-D Steinway for the Musaion Concert Hall. The plight was well received but would take time and finally the day came on a December day in 2012 when I was informed that the acquisition of a new Steinway was approved and the University would like me to fly to the factory to select the new concert instrument.
I was beside myself with excitement. For years I had discussed the process of selecting a new Steinway with colleagues of mine who were fortunate to choose instruments for other universities in SA. One particular colleague had the great opportunity to select a concert grand Steinway for her own home. As I realised that my day had finally arrived I started to prepare as best I could, speaking to piano technicians all over the world, reading, practising on various new instruments and researching techniques of other world-renowned pianists who have been in a simmilar position. The fact that I grew up with a Steinway and spend many hours of my life at my beloved piano in Pretoria has given me an insider’s view of the capabilities of these works of art.
For repertoire at the selection I prepared Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Barber, Chopin and just in case some Billy Joel. This would ensure that I could determine if the new D would be capable of performing in all styles from chamber music, concerto and solo repertoire as well as jazz, pop and rock.
I first visited the Hamburg factory where Steinway builds its world famous pianos in 2012. It was such an honour to see the detail from wood-selection to the voicing of the final product in the beautiful selection room. Little did I suspect that less than 10 months later I would be in a position to choose a product from the top range of Steinway instruments.
On Monday 8 April 2013 at 12:30 I entered the Hamburg factory selection room of Steinway & Sons flanked by the head of Music at the University of Pretoria Professor Wim Viljoen.
to be continued…