Austin community needs $40,000 to save 102-year-old Steinway B grand piano

AUSTIN — An old piano takes center stage as the Austin community raises funds for “Save the Steinway.”

The Steinway B grand piano has long lived in the limelight with several spots on Austin high school stages over the past 101 years. Austin High School vocal music director Kalle Akkerman said the piano was likely purchased new and added to the building when it opened in 1921.

“It’s a big story,” Akkerman remarked. “The problem is that he is 102 years old and completely worn out. It’s honestly hard to play, or to play well.

He said the music department has many “riches,” such as 20 rehearsal rooms with pianos, partnerships with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Music Boosters and the Hormel Foundation, and of course the Steinway. The school’s musical value has expanded with the Austin MacPhail Center for Music adding a second floor to the

annex building of the school only for music

in the 2020-21 school year.

School staff, students and alumni hope to hear the Steinway’s tunes spread to future generations in a bid to raise $40,000 for a renovation project. The fundraiser, led by Akkerman, 507 country singer Riley Olson, Madi Herrick and her grandfather Jim Herrick, includes online donations, t-shirt sales and a musical performance Oct. 7.

Jim Herrick said he joined the student fundraising effort and the music program more than the piano itself. He is a strong supporter of the musical arts, vice president of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, and alumnus of the Austin High School band, where he performed in the 1950s with his wife, Mary.

“I just think it pays off. It’s just doing for the kids what people have done for us, and there’s nothing more important,” Jim said.

The Steinway B grand piano in the choir room at Austin High School. The piano is 102 years old in 2022.

Contributed / Jim Herrick

But why is it important to save this Steinway? Generations of local and global students and pianists are the foundation of fundraising. The piano itself is high quality, and Akkerman added that the cost of a new Steinway would be around $100,000.

“Steinway is one of the best grand pianos you can buy, in my opinion, in the world. They’ve been around forever,” Akkerman said. the previous year are arguably some of the finest grand pianos you can buy.”

After the school received a Fazioli F308 concert grand piano in 2021, the Steinway began to adorn the choir room. The community, from the Austin Symphony Orchestra to the Hormel Foundation, also spearheaded last year’s fundraising initiative as part of a long history of musical excellence in Austin.

“To have something of this quality in the choir hall of all places, where it’s not a recital instrument or a concert instrument, but just an accompanying instrument is quite an impressive thing,” Akkerman said. .

The Steinway is “the student’s instrument”, noted Akkerman. The piano accompanies four to five choir classes daily as well as community choirs and a series of vocal recitals. Madi, as a member of the Austinaires show choir, said the Steinway carries the choirs through their rehearsals.

“This piano has basically been a rock for me,” Madi said. “It’s helped me learn everything I know about music, and I just think it’s really important that future kids who come into the choir…that they can hear it in all its glory.”

PXL_20220420_222007094.MP.jpg
The Steinway piano in the choir room at Austin High School. The piano was purchased new by the school in the 1920s.

Contribution / Kalle Akkerman

Along with her brother, Madi enjoys the musical love fostered in her family. She plays the piano, drums and clarinet – the same one her 75-year-old grandmother Mary gave her in fifth grade.

“They always showed us how important music can be,” Madi said of her grandparents.

“I love doing things for music,” Jim said. “I just find that music is a great value in everyday life.”

In the halls of Austin High School and in the songs “Peanuts”, the piano melody is easily recognizable and keeps students coming back to the piano.

“Kids who play it – including me, I also grew up on this piano at Austin High – fall in love with the way it sounds and really enjoy playing it. I now have a few kids who just came here and played for lunchtime fun, and now they’re taking piano lessons on that same instrument,” Akkerman said.

A fundraiser for musical enjoyment will be held at 5 p.m. on October 7, 2022 at the Hormel Historic Home Peace Garden. Tickets are on sale at

hormelhistorichome.org

and at the door. Donations are also accepted online at GoFundMe and the Music Boosters of Austin, Inc. Paypal page.

The Austinaires and 507 Country will perform at the fundraising event, which also includes a meal, silent auction and drawing. Madi said community businesses donated gift cards, fall gifts, an electric guitar and sports tickets.

“We kind of wanted to show what came out of that high school because of that piano and everything,” Madi said of 507 Country, who are Mower Country favorites and graduates of Austin’s music program. Highschool.

The choir department also sells t-shirts and crew necks on the

Games People Play Sports website

until September 18.

While fundraising has been going on for two years, the focus remains on replacing interior parts and working on the piano’s exterior case. Akkerman said the school had two Minnesota companies in mind for the project, Classic Piano Restoration, LLC and North Country Refinishing. The renovation will bring an even higher quality to the piano with parts available today, Akkerman and Jim Herrick said.

“Looks like a dog chewed it up,” Akkerman described of the 7-foot Steinway. “It’s falling apart, really honestly, it’s falling apart. It’s missing giant pieces of wood. The ivory keys are, you know, they’re 102 years old and I don’t know if we’ll be able to refurbish them .

“Sometimes aging is beautiful and sometimes it’s not so beautiful. And the Steinway is at the point where aging isn’t so beautiful anymore, and it just needs a lot of work,” Jim Herrick said.

The renovation project is intended to continue the musical heritage of Austin’s public schools and bring students to stages around the world.

“(The Steinway will be) here long after I die. Better,” Akkerman said with a laugh.

What: Fundraiser “Save the Steinway”

When: Oct. 7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Hormel Historic House Peace Garden