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New piano takes center stage

Story by Mary Gallagher

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The Ford Hill Steinway piano, named for Professor of Music Emeritus Ford Hill, is Western's first brand-new piano in more than 30 years. | Photo by Martin Waidelich
The Ford Hill Steinway piano, named for Professor of Music Emeritus Ford Hill, is Western's first brand-new piano in more than 30 years. | Photo by Martin Waidelich

Just like a child prodigy, the Ford Hill Steinway Piano, Western’s first new piano in more than 30 years, has some growing up to do.

With the help of fine-tuning adjustments by Western’s Piano Technician David Steege, the new 9-foot concert grand will “open up” over time, says Music Professor Jeffrey Gilliam, who traveled to New York City to select the piano from the Steinway factory.

“He must bring the piano to life, based on (the acoustics of) our hall,” Gilliam says.

The piano is named after Western Music Professor Emeritus Ford Hill, who directed Western’s piano program for 20 years, and was purchased with the help of an estate gift of Richard Clark, a Blaine resident and one of Hill’s former students.

But even now, the new piano’s notes “have warm, durational staying power, almost like an organ,” says Gilliam, who now teaches in the Richard E. Clark honorary piano studio.

The piano is scheduled for its wider audiences this year in the Sanford-Hill Piano Series, which regularly draws accomplished pianists from around the world.