A brand-new grand piano for the Brandon University School of Music will provide quality music for students, faculty and the community for decades to come, and will permanently recognize the legacy of Dr. Elizabeth Grant at BU.
Grant originally founded the Brandon Conservatory Chorale in 1981 as a project for her Master’s in Music degree. Since then, it has grown from just 14 members to peak at well over 100 choristers, and has been subdivided into various youth choirs, with singers ranging in age from 5-18, both male and female. The Chorale has also added an adult choir, Bel Canto, in the past five years.
Recognized as one of Canada’s leading youth choirs, the Conservatory Chorale provides choral training in three performing groups, has performed extensively both nationally and internationally and has consistently won acclaim at all levels. Under Grant’s direction, the Chamber Choir, comprised of the most experienced and disciplined singers, has had opportunity to perform as a major touring group throughout Canada, The United States, Great Britain, France and Italy.
For generations of students, Grant has been known fondly as Liz. Now, ‘Liz’ is also the name that will be bestowed on the new piano, a Steinway & Sons Model B semi-concert grand.
“Instruments definitely have personalities, so it is only natural that we also give them names,” says Brandon University Dean of Music Greg Gatien. “The opportunity to name a premiere new Steinway grand piano after Elizabeth Grant is truly fitting. Both are inspiring figures, perfectly at home on the biggest of stages, and devoted to bringing out top musicianship in others.”
The new piano will be installed in the R. D. Bell Hall, Grant’s home as chorale director.
The Model B is described by the Steinway & Sons company as a wonderfully balanced and versatile instrument. It is nearly seven feet in length, weighs 760 pounds and has a total of more than 39,000 pounds of tension in the strings. Each one is handcrafted, takes almost a year to complete and comes with a price tag of approximately $158,000.
Fundraising for the new piano began late last month, at a special Brandon Conservatory Chorale reunion held to celebrate Grant. At the emotional reunion concert, it was announced that Grant’s daughter Deborah Grant, along with husband Srdjan Tanjga and children Marko, Luka and Nikola, had confirmed a generous commitment to anchor fundraising for the new piano.
“We are thrilled to be able to contribute to a permanent musical presence that will honour my mother and her years of devoted choir leadership at Brandon University, from which I personally befitted as one of her choristers,” Deborah said. “Just as she established the Brandon Conservatory Chorale as a fixture in the community, this piano will be a centerpiece instrument that will carry on my mother’s mission of providing musical inspiration and education for youth every year. We can’t wait to hear it.”
Now, the BU School of Music and the Brandon Conservatory Chorale are launching a campaign to raise the rest of the piano’s cost through the sponsorship of individual keys. Already, 32 keys of the 88 on a piano keyboard have been pledged at $900 apiece, including all of the A keys. Donors who buy a key will be recognized in the choral hall.
For more information or to donate to one of the remaining 56 keys, contact the BU Office of Advancement at (204) 727-7374, 1-877-282-4483. Donations may be made online at BrandonU.ca/Give, by mail or in person to “Brandon University Foundation”, 270–18th Street, Brandon, MB R7A 6A9. All donations are tax-deductible.
This new piano will continue the BU School of Music’s renewal of its aging inventory of pianos, which began about a decade ago.
“Replacing pianos is always a major expense, and the School of Music obviously has limited resources. Whenever possible, we buy the highest quality instruments for our students and faculty. It’s important to realize that pianos affect every student and teacher in the School and Conservatory, not just the pianists. They are so important to ensembles, choirs, teaching theory and history, demonstrating improvisational concepts, and developing basic musicianship,” Gatien said. “The BU School of Music has an excellent reputation for providing a world-class environment for artists, and we work hard to bring outstanding performers here for our students and for our community. This new piano will also help us continue to attract high-quality visiting musicians to our stages and classrooms.”
Properly cared for, the new piano will last for more than a century. At least in the early part of the instrument’s lifespan, that care will be provided by BU piano technician Mark Cramer.
“This is a remarkable gift that will benefit our community and countless students for generations,” Cramer said. “Sometimes we understate the tremendous benefits that music brings to our lives. However, providing a Steinway instrument to exceptional teachers like Dr. Grant affirms the fact that musical-education deserves the finest-support we can possibly offer.
“It is truly-gratifying to see how our chorale community, local families, and individuals have taken-up the challenge to build a keyboard for Liz, one note at a time. What better way to say ‘Thank-you, Liz!’”
- Brandon University
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