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Keyboard tune-ups

In the 1990s Skidmore’s music depart- ment needed to upgrade its aging pianos without spending a lot of money. A loan- rent-purchase arrangement with Yamaha Corp. allowed the department to retire many pianos from service, and the department invited members of the campus community to “adopt” the older models as free long-term loans.

In 2010, with the opening of the Arthur Zankel Music Center and its many practice rooms, Skidmore suddenly need- ed about 40 pianos but had only 20 on hand from the Filene Music Building. Buying new Steinways would have cost over $2 million. Instead, in what music department wags called a “cash for klunk- ers” program (though no cash changed hands), a half dozen loaned-out grands were recalled and sent to New York City for rebuiding, at less than one-fourth the cost of buying new models. Another in- strument sent to New York for refurbish- ing is a 1917 Steinway recently donated by a 1929 alumna who taught at Skid- more until 1943. Meanwhile, some facul- ty members have had their own pianos moved into Zankel.

Skidmore also acquired two “signifi- cant instruments,” according to Tom


Fossil hunter Neil Shubin’s discov- ery of a missing link between ancient

fish and the first land creatures was the focus of his campus visit in the fall. Shubin is the author of the 2010– 11 First-Year Experience reading, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Bil- lion-Year History of the Human Body. A professor at the University of Chica - go and provost at the Field Museum, Shubin met with students and gave a public lecture on the fossil creature he dubbed Tiktaalik, the earliest fish found to have limbs like a mammal’s, and what it reveals about evolution, speciation, and the fishy heritage still traceable in human anatomy. —SR


Denny, music depart-

ment chair. A near-new Bechstein 7-foot grand was donated and now graces the Elisabeth Luce Moore recital room, and —the jewel in the crown—a 9-foot Stein- way “D” model arrived from Hamburg, Germany, at a total cost of $160,000 (after trade-in). Faculty pianist Pola Bay - tel man says Skidmore chose a German Steinway because it has “easier action, making it more responsive than the Ameri can. It is easier to control the sound and, for example, play very soft. The sound also tends to be more lush.” In the Zankel’s lobby is the ornately decorated Steinway formerly housed in the living room of Skidmore founder Lucy Scribner and more recently (after refurbishments funded by the late Jean Pos kan zer Rudnick ’44) in the Tang Muse- um’s Payne Room. Despite its age, Denny

says, it is in good condition and plays well, though its cabi- net is fragile. Visitors are invited to tickle its ivories but avoid touch- ing its gilt-edged woodwork. Other notable campus keyboards in- clude a rare original 1826 (Beethoven/ Schubert-era) Viennese fortepiano on 10-year loan, a replica 1795 (Mozart-era) pianoforte built around 1990, and an 18th-century-style reproduction harpsi- chord built in 1971 by noted craftsman David Rubio. Two workaday harpsichords are already in Zankel, but now “for the first time in our history,” says Denny, “Skidmore will have a first-rate concert harpsichord for music history classes and for our concert audiences to hear some Baroque performances.”

In Filene, with its aging and unstable

HVAC system, every piano had to be tuned once a month. In the climate-con- trolled Zankel, keyboards won’t need tun- ing nearly as often. So, even with twice as many pianos now, the cost should be about the same. One practice hasn’t changed: Pianos are still tuned before every major performance. —PD




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