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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Winter 1998, Vol.18, No.1

'I'd Like to Buy a B Flat, Please'

By Kristen Watson

Through the Please Endorse a Key" Program established last spring, P&S alumni, faculty, and other friends can support restoration of the school's three pianos through tax-deductible endorsements of piano keys.

A letter signed by the former chairs of the Musicians' Guild and the Bard Hall Players was mailed to P&S alumni in May 1997, asking for help to restore and preserve two Steinway grands and one Mason & Hamlin. The estimated cost of restoring all three instruments is $45,000, two-thirds of which has been raised through generous alumni contributions.

The letter-writing campaign has since been handed over to the new chairs of the Musicians' Guild, Anne Hudson'00 and Jack Rose'00. The Musicians' Guild also organized a December recital in Alumni Auditorium to raise additional funds for the pianos.

P&S students have three pianos available for general use: the Donald Holub Mason & Hamlin in Alumni Auditorium, the Steinway grand in the Bard Hall music room, and the Rachmaninoff concert grand Steinway in the main lounge of Bard Hall. Both Steinways are in very poor condition and at high risk of deteriorating further.

Alumni may participate in the program by "purchasing" a key in their own names or in the name of a loved one. All donors will be acknowledged on a replica keyboard displayed near each piano. Any major donations of $10,000 will be acknowledged on a plaque in the contributor's name; the plaque will be permanently affixed in a prominent location on the piano specified by the donor.

The program offers several options, including the purchase of any key in the name of an alumnus ($100), any key in honor of a loved one ($100), any key in memory of Donald Holub'52 ($100 for restoration of the Holub piano in Alumni Auditorium), a specific key ($150), or a major donation of $10,000.

Donors are given two lines (up to 20 characters per line) to fill with the name of the individual the key will honor or a brief message.

Many of the alums have responded to the letters with stories of how the pianos played a large part in their best P&S memories, says Kate Malin-Smith, administrative assistant for the P&S Club.

William J. Meisler'78 of Harrisburg, Pa., wrote: "When I was in medical school at P&S from 1974 to 1978 I had the pleasure and privilege of frequently playing in chamber music concerts which we held in the main lounge of Bard Hall. At the time I used a seven-foot Steinway ebony grand for these concerts--this one was the piano that was always in the main lounge at that time, and it was the one that I also used to practice for the concerts. My memories of those concerts and the piano that I used are quite fond. They certainly helped get me through medical school."

Maurice M. Osborne Jr.'47 of Los Altos Hills, Calif., wrote: "I'm so glad you're going to rehabilitate the three pianos at P&S--in particular, the 'Rachmaninoff' Steinway is the one that I spent so many hours at, along with my great friend and classmate, Albie Sherwin, who was the resident musical genius of our class. Albie had started out to be a professional musician, and I believe he had a master's in music from Columbia. A facile and gifted pianist, Albie also wrote music and had a musical produced off Broadway some time after we graduated. He and I wrote, performed, and directed our class' show--a musical, 'Chief Complaint.' Anyway, that piano was very big in my life at P&S, and naturally I want to help restore it to playable health and longevity. Albie (Albert C. Sherwin'47) went into psychiatry, and--very sadly--died in 1969." Dr. Osborne contributed $100 in memory of Dr. Sherwin and $100 in his own name.

Clyde Wu'56 contributed $15,000 to be "committed to repair the 'Rachmaninoff' piano to its former pristine condition." An earlier contribution from Dr. Wu led to creation of The Wu Room," a piano practice room in Bard Hall. Edward Walworth'70 sent a note informing P&S that "Mr. Steinway [Henry Steinway] is my uncle" and that he would pass the note onto him. The Rachmaninoff piano has already been restored with some of the funds raised. Ms. Malin-Smith says the Musicians' Guild plans to have a recital/gala to celebrate the restoration of all three pianos.

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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