The public profile of the Department of Music at Texas A&M University-Commerce is getting a big boost, giving students the opportunity to study piano with some of the most advanced technology in the industry thanks to the recent designation of TAMUC as an All-Steinway School.
In addition, the university has the unique distinction of receiving a Spirio Technology designation along with it, becoming the first institution in the world to receive this particular distinction.
The Spirio system is billed as the world's finest high-resolution piano, capable of live performance capture and playback. It allows the pianist to capture their performance on a Spirio instrument and have their performance played back on any other Spirio piano worldwide, copying everything from the original performance, including applied pressure, dynamic range, pedaling and more.
Dr. Brian Zator, interim head of the Department of Music at A&M-Commerce, said that this kind of technology could revolutionize the learning environment.
“The technology really is incredible,” Zator said. “This can allow us to have more effective distance lessons and distance learning. A vocalist or instrumentalist can play a recording made previously, and it's like the accompanist is right in the room with them.”
“What an incredible opportunity we have in the piano division of A&M-Commerce to work with Steinway’s Spirio technology,” said Libby Vanatta, instructor of piano and piano pedagogy. “I am especially excited about the pedagogical implications of having this technology on campus. The children and adults from the community that take lessons through our Piano Academy will also have the opportunity to experience the Spirio.”
The All-Steinway School designation is bestowed by the prestigious Steinway & Sons piano company on schools that demonstrate a commitment to excellence and an unparalleled educational experience by providing their students with the rich, unrivaled sound, incomparable tone and pristine touch of Steinway pianos. Only about 200 educational institutions worldwide are listed as All-Steinway Schools.
“I am so proud to be a part of this history-making moment,” said Bryan Elmore, Institutional Director at Steinway Hall-Dallas. “We have been working with TAMUC for eleven years to help them reach their goal of becoming an All-Steinway School thanks to the work of the Piano Division, past Department Heads Dr. David Scott and Dr. David Davies, and the College of Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts. For TAMUC to be the first in the world to receive a Spirio Technology designation is further proof of the university's commitment to its students.”
To be named an All-Steinway School, an institution must use the brand's instruments in its performance halls and piano studios. Additionally, at least 90% of all pianos in the department must come from the Steinway brand. To receive the added Spirio designation, an institution must have at least three pianos in their inventory with the Spirio technology.
“Becoming an All-Steinway School with Spirio technology is an incredible opportunity for A&M-Commerce,” said Cara Chrisman, A&M-Commerce graduate piano student. “This advancement will give our school prestige while also presenting unique possibilities for students.”
Founded in 1853, Steinway & Sons has cemented itself at the forefront of the piano industry, creating a reputation of excellent craftsmanship and quality. Its pianos are manufactured by hand, and the company is also known as an innovator in piano development; Steinway & Sons has been granted 139 patents in piano making throughout its storied history.
Zator says one of the most significant benefits of receiving the designation is that it greatly enhances the department's recruiting efforts. In a 2018 survey of All-Steinway Schools performed by the company, 97% of respondents stated that being an All-Steinway School assisted in recruiting not only more music students, but higher-quality students as well.
“This shows that we are a department that is committed to excellence,” Zator said. “This is rare air that we are stepping into.”
Four out of five new pianos were ordered in Dallas and are expected to arrive at A&M-Commerce in early May. The department's “showcase” piano that will be used in the Jack & Lou Finney Concert Hall was handpicked at the Steinway & Sons Selection Room at their factory in New York City.
Steinway Artist, Dr. Luis Sanchez, professor of piano, Vanatta, and A&M-Commerce piano students Chrisman and Momoko Hoffman made the trip and were given the opportunity to “audition” several concert grand pianos, allowing them to select the one more perfectly suited for Finney Concert Hall.
“I am extremely grateful that I could be part of the selection process,” said Hoffman, a sophomore piano performance major. “I wanted to select a piano that current students and future Lions would enjoy playing on.”
Sanchez is grateful of the support and vision of the university to heighten the learning experience of all music students.
“The unsurpassable quality of Steinway pianos combined with the Spirio cutting edge technology truly marks the beginning of a new era at the A&M-Commerce Department of Music,” Sanchez said.