A blue piano called “The Rhapsody” lives on the fourth floor of the Stueckle Sky Center. This isn’t any normal piano. Not only is it blue, but it is a Steinway piano and the first of many to come to Boise State starting in 2008 in an effort to make Boise State’s music department an All-Steinway department.
At the Boise State vs. Hawaii football game on Oct. 17, 2008, the campaign was launched to add Boise State’s music department to this list of All-Steinway schools. The Blue Thunder Marching Band performed Rhapsody in Blue at the halftime show and got national recognition on ESPN for the stunning blue piano that accompanied the band. From that day forward, a group effort was underway to raise the money necessary, one million dollars, to fund the switch to Steinway pianos.
“At least half of the pianos that we had were junk,” said Mark Hansen, department chair of the music department at Boise State. “The piano affects every single music student and having good pianos seriously affects the quality of their work.”
With better pianos brings betters music. With better music brings a better department, and with a better department brings interest from prospective students and a growing department.
“Ask anybody in any endeavor here,” said Mike Winters, Boise State alumnus and chairman of Boise State College of Arts and Sciences Community Advisory Board. “They’ll tell you that the quality of the instruments you have to work on–research or science or athletics or anything, determines your limits of what you can do.”
These pianos, made by Steinway and Sons, are handmade pianos that are known worldwide to be among the best instruments in the world. Becoming an All-Steinway School means being nationally recognized and having the highest quality pianos to foster the music department.
The first piano, the blue Rhapsody, was donated to the music department by Keith and Catherine Stein, two people who have been active in donating funds to the Boise State music department over the years.
After their kick-off to the fundraising, University Advancement raised more than $145,000 over the next 15 months. After that, a volunteer committee took over who raised another $164,000 by putting on events for the community and specifically, influential members of the music community. These events featured music students who were able to share their talent and mingle with the community, putting a face to the project.
“What made the campaign successful was that I wanted to make the students a focal point of what we were doing,” Winters said. “I think it’s the students that are why we are all in this.”
Keith and Catherine Stein gave a generous gift of $700,000 to the music department to finish off their fundraising and the Boise State music department was given recognition for being an All-Steinway school in the late summer of 2012.
“There isn’t any numerical data,” Hansen said. “But there has been a noticeable increase in interest and community because of the pianos. Schools are anxious to come here and have festivals because they know of the pianos.”
Every piano used by the Boise State music department, both inside the Morrison Center and during performances elsewhere, is now a Steinway. After an almost four year long journey, the Boise State stands among schools like Juliard, Yale and the China Conservatory of Music as being a school with the best pianos in the world.