In the 1800s, Queen Victoria of England, known as a gifted pianist, issued a royal warrant of appointment to Steinway & Sons piano company, a coveted stamp of approval that signifies the highest quality craftsmanship.
In the many years since, Steinway pianos, originally made in Manhattan before the company moved its U.S. headquarters across the East River to Queens, have remained the favored instruments of royal families and accomplished musicians alike. For centuries, countless legends, from Sergei Rachmaninoff to George Gershwin to Duke Ellington, have played Steinways exclusively. Now Connecticut College students can follow in their footsteps.
This spring, after a five-year-long process, Conn was officially certified as an All-Steinway School, a distinction shared only by a very select group of roughly 170 institutions around the world, and by no other NESCAC members.
During the ceremony recognizing the official certification, President Katherine Bergeron thanked Nancy Marshall
Athey ’72 and her husband Preston Athey, whose gift of $855,000 allowed the College to buy 14 new Steinway pianos, which included a concert grand for Evans Hall, as well as 10 grand pianos and three upright pianos meant for teaching and practicing.
“Steinways are synonymous with excellence, and have been the gold standard for pianos for at least 100 years,” Bergeron told the Atheys. “By giving us a gift of pianos that were always ahead of their time, you also celebrate a century of progressive education in the arts at Connecticut College.”
Following the presentation of the All-Steinway certificate, several students, faculty and alumni took the stage to showcase the new concert grand’s rich tone and distinct sound.
“Conn’s plan to become an All-Steinway school was a very large part of my decision to attend,” said Laura Bentley ’17, who performed two pieces by Claude Debussy. “Having access to such lovely instruments has helped me feel at home here and has encouraged me to continue learning and loving music.”
Associate Professor of Music Margaret Thomas, who served as the project director for the All-Steinway initiative, said that the new pianos have truly enriched both teaching and learning throughout the music, dance and theater departments.
“These pianos impact the musical life of the College in many important ways,” Thomas said. “No matter a student’s level of proficiency, making music on a rich and sensitive instrument like a Steinway piano is a profound musical experience.”