New Steinway elevates BU to the top of Canada’s piano landscape

Steinway piano logo close up. Classic gold lettering above ivory piano keys.

It still has that new piano smell.

“Jack” is the name of a brand-new nine-foot Steinway Model D Concert Grand Piano that will make its debut March 2 on the stage of the Lorne Watson Recital Hall at Brandon University.

Formal portrait of a man in glasses and academic robes.
Dr. Harold J. (Jack) Perkins, President of Brandon University 1977–83.

The lustrous gleam of Jack’s satin ebony-black surface and stark ivory-white keys make a visual statement that is fully matched by its rich tone and crystal-clear notes. Paired with BU’s existing nine-foot grand piano, the BU School of Music is now home to the top two pianos in the country.

The new piano is thanks to a generous donation from Mrs. Mary Louise Perkins, and is named after her late husband, Dr. Harold J. (Jack) Perkins, President of Brandon University from 1977–83.

“Dad always believed in Brandon University, and the impact that people at BU could have with the right supports in place,” said their son David. “In the case of the School of Music, ensuring that it has the very best facility and instruments for faculty, students, and visiting performers is precisely what my father’s vision would have been.”

Among his many efforts as President, Dr. Perkins was instrumental in expanding the academic offerings of the university, including, among others, working with Dr. Lorne Watson, then Dean of the School of Music, to establish the Master of Music degree. Dr. Perkins also led the creation of the Brandon University Foundation — the charitable arm of BU that today stewards more than $75 million in endowments and other assets, and which has disbursed more than $65 million to Brandon University to support scholarship, research and the improvement of University facilities and activities. Together with his wife, Dr. Perkins also established a scholarship fund in the School of Music. In 1999, he was awarded the Foundation’s Apex Award for his outstanding service. He passed away in 2019.

Named in his honour, the new piano is a top-of-the-line model that is appropriate for a presidential name. The Model D is the flagship of the Steinway brand and the first choice worldwide for a premium concert performance piano.

“Having an opportunity to purchase a Steinway D Grand piano is such an amazing investment in the future of our School of Music,” said BU Dean of Music Greg Gatien. “In making this investment, we relied upon the deep expertise of our amazing piano faculty. Not only are they brilliant musicians, but they know the acoustics of our concert hall. They brought this knowledge and experience to the Steinway factory and selected the perfect instrument for our School of Music — “Jack” is an amazing piano under any circumstances, but will provide the absolute best experience for any pianists study at, working at, or visiting our University.”

Selecting the right piano was only the first part of bringing Jack to the BU stage.

“Not surprisingly, our piano technician is one of the very best in the world — after helping with selection process and taking delivery, he set this piano up to perfectly match its personality with our faculty and recital hall,” Gatien said. “Pianos here at BU are the absolute very best in the country for anyone to play, and Jack will be kept in pristine condition for decades to come.”

Son David said that the lasting impact of such a gift would have been just how his father would have wanted his legacy at Brandon University to be felt.

“His vision for BU, and why he was so enthusiastic about creating a BU Foundation, was to lay the groundwork for people to help create a university where current and future generations of faculty and students could excel in their teaching, research, studies, and performances,” he said. “To know that the BU Foundation has truly enabled a complete transformation of BU is something special. To him, the piano donation would be one part of the icing on that cake.”

You can be among the first to hear notes from Jack, as a debut performance will be held March 2 in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall to welcome the piano and to honour the Perkins’ generous gift.

Alexander Tselyakov, Megumi Masaki, Dianna Neufeld and Daniel Tselyakov will put the new piano through its paces on Saturday evening, March 2, starting at 7:30 p.m. Four to eight hands perform a repertoire of pieces that have been specifically selected to celebrate the exquisite tones and colours of both BU concert grand pianos.

Tickets are $20 and are available at the door. The performance will be preceded by a short ceremony to inaugurate the piano and to unveil a plaque recognizing this significant gift. A reception will be held immediately after.


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