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September 20, 1999

Music Department makes sound investment

By Barbara McKenna

If the three piano faculty in the Music Department seem a little more upbeat than usual these days, it might have something to do with the recent arrival of two beautiful Steinway concert pianos, now ensconced in the Recital Hall.
Anatole Leikin and Maria Ezerova
Anatole Leikin and Maria Ezerova tinkle the keys of the Music Department's new Steinway pianos.
Photo: Barbara McKenna

The Steinway Model D concert grands arrived on campus August 31 after a long process that involving research, fund-raising, and even an expedition to New York by piano faculty. But, according to Music Operations Manager Tom Listmann, the work has been well worth the results.

"We've purchased two world-class pianos to go with our top-class Recital Hall," he said, noting that the pianos, valued at some $80,000 each, are among the most expensive musical instruments the department owns.

Before the Steinways arrived, UCSC pianists struggled with three pianos far older than most of the students who played on them--a Steinway and two Bösendorfers.

"The pianos that were in the hall before were not adequate," said Mary Jane Cope. A lecturer in music at UCSC, Cope is one of three music faculty members who teaches piano. Cope and her colleagues, associate music professor Anatole Leikin and lecturer Maria Ezerova, are reveling in the rich sounds of the new pianos.

"Before, it was a matter of making due with what we had," Cope says. "But with this extraordinary hall we need the instruments that go with it. Those pianos were serviceable but never sounded very good. We've even had visiting pianists refuse to play on them in the past."

But, because of their cost, obtaining the pianos was not just a matter of logistics. Ultimately, the Music Department was able to purchase the pianos thanks to a substantial gift from Santa Cruz County residents Mary and Richard Solari.

Once the funds were available, Leikin and Ezerova traveled to the Steinway factory in New York to select the pianos. "Every piano is different," Listmann explains. "They all have different action, a different feel, a different tone. And a Steinway D is the premiere concert piano in the world. Because it's such a significant investment, you want someone who knows what they're doing to go and pick them out." Along with other considerations, Leikin and Ezerova made sure to select pianos with compatible sounds.

"This is a really sound investment," Cope notes. "These instruments, with proper care, are going to last us a long time."

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