SOS, says DSA: Our Pianos Need More than TLC

Concert Friday, 5/17, to support Durham School of the Arts’ Steinway piano renovation project.

The Durham School of the Arts is a fine example of the Durham spirit. Now filling the old Durham High School campus bounded by Morgan, Duke, Trinity and Gregson Streets, the magnet middle and high school is among Durham’s most sought-after–and highest achieving schools. When it was founded with a single class in the 1990s, the school’s buildings were, uh, not at their best–in fact, the school system wanted to sell the property, which had fallen vacant due to white flight and the consolidation of the city and county schools. But a few visionaries carried the day, making possible today’s vibrant arts-centered school in the heart of town–where a school ought to be. Gradually, all the buildings and outdoor facilities have been renovated, and the DSA holds a prideful place in the community. But not everything is fixed yet.

Save Our Steinways: This 1943 concert grand belonging to the Durham School of the Arts needs renovation. Photo: Trudi Abel.

Save Our Steinways: This 1943 concert grand belonging to the Durham School of the Arts needs a full restoration. Photo: Trudi Abel.

This 9-foot concert grand Steinway piano built in 1943 is the largest of the three venerable pianos at DSA. Neither it nor the two 5-foot, 8-inch pianos from 1924 and 1917 (the last a recent gift from Duke University) can be played. The school has one functioning acoustic piano, but mostly the students learn on electronic keyboards. Not the same.

In typical DSA fashion, a coalition of teachers, parents and students has tackled the problem. The Save Our Steinways group of the DSA Foundation has already raised $21,000 of the projected $32,000 cost to renovate the 1943 instrument (that amount includes a $5000 fund for ongoing care). A new Steinway of this size would cost at least $125,000. So–only $11,000 to go for Piano No. 1. In order to encourage donations, the SOS fundraisers, along with the Duke University Department of Music, have organized a concert this Friday night. It won’t be in DSA’s Weaver Auditorium–there’s no suitable piano–but in Duke’s Nelson Music Room. Presented free of charge, donations of any amount happily accepted, the program will include talented pianists ranging from DSA students to the chair of the piano program in the UNC’s music department, playing a mixed program that sounds delightful in its variety.

Thomas Otten from UNC will play

Thomas Otten from UNC will play etudes by Leslie Adams in Friday’s concert in Nelson Music Room.

SOS Piano Recital

Friday, May 17, 7:30 p.m.

Nelson Music Room

East Duke Building, Duke East Campus, 1304 Campus Drive.

Remember, Main Street is closed for bridge work between Broad and Buchanan. Go to the intersection of Main and Buchanan, where a police officer will permit recital attendees to access the East Campus gate in order to reach East Duke Building.

To donate online, go to durhamschoolofthearts.org. Write “piano restoration” in the “special instructions” field. Donations also can be made by check to Durham School of the Arts Foundation (Attn: Piano Restoration), Durham School of the Arts, 400 N. Duke St., Durham, NC 27701.

Jazz pianist Ariel Pocock will play Joni Mitchell.

Jazz pianist Ariel Pocock will play Joni Mitchell.

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