Western Michigan University’s College of Fine Arts Creates Distinct Brand as All-Steinway School

As seen in the Spring 2013 edition of the Steinway Chronicle.

Steinway Western Michigan University Symphony OrchestraAcknowledged by Downbeat Magazine as the “Best Classical University Symphony Orchestra” in 2005, the Western Michigan University Symphony Orchestra now performs with added distinction as an All-Steinway school.

Students aspiring to become successful artists in the 21st century will find a reverential destination at Western Michigan University, where administrators say musical culture is built on mutual respect that demanded pianos by Steinway & Sons.

“Our mission is to give our students a first-rate education and that requires first-class instruments, high quality learning opportunities and outstanding faculty-artists,” said Dr. Margaret Merrion, Dean of the College of Fine Arts. “The All-Steinway program was a major objective in our strategic map for distinction.” “Becoming an All-Steinway School is another example in which the College of Fine Arts is a leader in creating a distinctive brand for Western Michigan University,” adds Dr. David Colson, Director of the School of Music. “Students are especially appreciative to have instruments on which to practice and perform that inspire their growth as musicians. In addition to our students, guest artists often comment on the uniqueness of our program in regards to the numbers and types of superior pianos. It’s something they remember about our school.”

Steinway Margaret Merrion David ColsonDr. Margaret Merrion, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and Dr. David Colson, Director of the School of Music at Western Michigan University, one of the nation’s newest All-Steinway schools.

WMU has been updating its inventory with 118 pianos, said Wilbur Miller, Director of Institutional Sales at Steinway Piano Gallery of Detroit. “They have a tremendous piano department with faculty members who recognized the importance of the All-Steinway initiative. When Dean Merrion realized it was close to happening on the 100th anniversary (of the School of Music), they pushed hard to reach the top the mountain,” he said. Performances are scheduled for later this year to mark the All-Steinway milestone.

As witnessed first-hand by Dean Merrion at the Dorothy U. Dalton Center, WMU’s community of music students and faculty respect and take great pride in the environment. “This culture of reverence is most visible when students invite their friends and family to their recitals, when they are one notch closer to professional artists as they perform with Steinway instruments. I think they ‘play up’ to a higher level of performance when having the most respected instruments in the industry,” she said.

Steinway Artist Christopher O'RileySteinway Artist Christopher O’Riley, host of From the Top on NPR, makes a point at the School of Music’s Dalton Center during the 40th Anniversary of the College of Fine Arts at Western Michigan University.

Fundraising began five years ago, with a $2 million campaign led by two major donors: the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation and Irving S. Gilmore Foundation. While project resources came from many places, Dr. Colson said “it was the commitment and focus of Dean Merrion that was the driving force in achieving this goal in a timely manner.”

Dean Merrion confesses she wanted the School of Music to be part of the first university in the State of Michigan bearing the All-Steinway seal. “I must admit I am competitive,” she said after joining more than 150 colleges, universities and other prestigious schools of distinction around the world.

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