A gift of $855,000 from Nancy Marshall Athey ’72 and husband Preston Athey secured the purchase of 14 new Steinway & Sons pianos.
Connecticut College has joined a select group of institutions by officially becoming an All-Steinway School.
Alumni, faculty, staff and friends gathered at John C. Evans Hall on Thursday to commemorate the designation, which has been five years in the making. Among the distinguished guests were Nancy Marshall Athey ’72 and husband Preston Athey, whose gift of $855,000 in 2012 made reaching the All-Steinway School distinction possible.
In her remarks, Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron described the College’s many years of dedication to the arts, noting that music was among the first majors offered by the College when it opened in 1915. She thanked the Atheys for providing the College with instruments that are “synonymous with excellence,” and have been “the gold standard for pianos for at least 100 years.”
“By giving us a gift of pianos that were always ahead of their time, you also celebrate a century of progressive education in the arts at Connecticut College, and we really cannot thank you enough for that,” Bergeron said before accepting the All-Steinway certificate.
Connecticut College joins more than 170 colleges, music conservatories and organizations to meet the standards required for achieving the All-Steinway distinction. The College is also the first among its NESCAC peers to be officially named an All-Steinway School.
The presentation of the All-Steinway certificate was followed by a concert that featured faculty, students and alumni performing on the College’s new Steinway concert grand piano, showcasing the instruments’ rich tone and distinct sound.
Laura Bentley ’17, a Hispanic studies and economics double major, has studied piano since she was a child and performed two pieces by Claude Debussy during the concert.
“Conn’s plan to become an All-Steinway school was a very large part of my decision to attend,” Bentley said. “Having access to such lovely instruments has helped me feel at home here and has encouraged me to continue learning and loving music.”
For John Anthony, co-chair of the Music Department, the Athey’s generosity is “a gift for the future” that will sustain quality music education and elevate musical performances at the College for years to come.
Quality of craftsmanship has long been associated with the Steinway & Sons name. The company, established in Manhattan in 1853, is widely regarded as manufacturing the best pianos in the world.
Margaret Thomas, associate professor of music, said the new Steinways have inspired students and faculty in their performances, and have enriched teaching and learning across the music, dance and theater departments.
“These pianos impact the musical life of the college in many important ways,” said Thomas, who served as the project director for the Steinway initiative. “No matter a student's level of proficiency, making music on a rich and sensitive instrument like a Steinway piano is a profound musical experience.”
Through the Atheys’ gift, the College secured the purchase of 14 new Steinway pianos: a concert grand in Evans Halls; 10 grand pianos for Harkness Chapel, Fortune Hall and practice and teaching spaces in Cummings Arts Center; and three upright pianos for smaller practice and teaching spaces. The gift allowed for the renovation, and in some cases complete rebuilding, of older Steinways already in the College’s collection.
"Music plays a big role in our life together, and we want to share this love of music with the students and faculty of Connecticut College," said Nancy Athey in 2012, noting that music played an important part in her years at Conn.
"For me, the All-Steinway project will do more than enhance musical performances for all of the performing arts; it will also ensure the quality of music education now and make the school even more attractive to gifted musicians in the future."