Concert kicks off fundraiser for new piano
Posted: 02/10/2005
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After playing for years on a 100-year old piano and another which was purchased used, the music department at The University of Texas-Pan American announces the first in a series of fundraisers to purchase a new concert grand piano.

The Padrinos del Piano fundraiser, named by UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, was initiated to raise money for the purchase of a nearly nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano made of ebonized birch.

"Each Steinway piano is a hand-made original work of art," Dr. Dahlia Guerra, associate professor and chair of the music department, said. "It is also the preferred piano for concert artists."

Valley Symphony Orchestra conductor Dr. Peter Dabrowski (pictured), also a UTPA associate professor of music, will lead the Feb. 25 concert to benefit the Padrinos del Piano fundraiser. Photo courtesy of the Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorale.
The University currently owns two concert pianos. Dr. John Raimo, professor of music at UTPA, said one of the pianos is more than 100 years old and was played in the 1930s by Sergei Rachmaninoff, a famous Russian composer and pianist, when he visited Edinburg. The piano was brought over from the old Edinburg Auditorium and has been rebuilt twice, he said. Rachmaninoff's signature is on the inside of the piano, however it was painted over. The other piano was purchased used in the early 1980s.

"The piano has historical significance, but as far as being adequate for concerts and the talent of the pianists who play it, it's not," Guerra said.

The Valley Symphony Orchestra (VSO) and Chorale, under the direction of conductor and associate professor of music Dr. Peter Dabrowski, will perform at the UTPA Fine Arts Auditorium to kick off the Padrinos del Piano fundraiser.

The concert which begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25 will feature selections including the opening chorus of Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantata No. 41, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 featuring internationally acclaimed cellist, Temenuzhka Ostreva, and Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, Op. 50. The powerful final movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Op. 125 will conclude the concert. Cárdenas will introduce the piece by reading the English translation of Friedrich Schiller's poem, "Ode to Joy."

The word padrino directly translated from Spanish to English means godfather. Guerra said a padrino in Hispanic culture is someone who is really important in the life of a child.

"You choose someone to be a padrino who is close to the family and who is like an extended family," Guerra said. "So, these people will be the extended family for the piano."

Guerra wants the community to feel like the piano belongs to them and that this project is worthy of support.

The music department has already received $6,000 in contributions. Additionally, the University and the city of Edinburg have also agreed to support the fundraising effort with donations.

All music majors at the University are required to study and be proficient in piano, Guerra said. Music students at the University were nearly speechless when asked their thoughts about getting a new piano.

"I'm very excited," Nathan Steele, a sophomore nursing major and beginning pianist, said. "It's a Steinway, so I think that says it all."

A cello player in the VSO and a senior majoring in music, Joe Luna, said getting the piano would be better than getting a Rolls-Royce. "But the piano will last longer," he added.

Not only will the new piano benefit the University community, but also the VSO which is housed at UTPA and shares the two pianos the University owns. The VSO, which rehearses and performs on campus, is composed of local educators, UTPA faculty members and a few of the University's outstanding music students.

Guerra said the symphony brings in major names from around the globe and is a gem the Rio Grande Valley should be proud of.

"The piano will be a showcase for the world, because concert artists will come from different places around the world and know we have the best piano," Guerra said. "This will represent our University and show that we have the finest to offer to visiting, as well as our own artists."

Guerra said the purchase of this piano is important because "music is the heart and soul of not only the University community, but the human experience in general."

Individual tickets for the concert range from $10 to $35. Season tickets are also available. Concert goers will have the opportunity to sponsor various parts of the new Steinway piano such as keys, pedals and the bench by donating monetary contributions, becoming padrinos of the piano. Guerra hopes to raise $100,000 by September, the start of the next concert season, to purchase the piano.

For ticket information, call the symphony box office at 956/393-2293. To make a donation, call Guerra at 956/381-3471.