Virginia State University Celebrates All-Steinway School Status
Courtesy of VSU
Virginia State University has officially been recognized as an All-Steinway School, making it one of only five Historically Black Colleges and Universities to attain this prestigious status. All-Steinway Schools (less than 250 in the United States) demonstrate a commitment to excellence by providing their students and faculty with only the finest pianos for the study of music in higher education. All pianos owned by All-Steinway Schools—from the practice room to the recital hall—are designed by Steinway & Sons
VSU’s journey to All-Steinway School began years ago but was accelerated by the addition of Dr. Samuel L. Rowley to the university’s music faculty in 2022. Dr. Rowley serves as the Chair of the Department of Music and Director of Bands and Winds Activities. Through his extensive background in higher education, Dr. Rowley is well acquainted with the All-Steinway School designation and had been affiliated with another All-Steinway School prior to his arrival at VSU.
“I’ve seen before what this designation can mean for students and faculty,” Rowley said. “The opportunity to practice, perform and learn on the world’s finest pianos is so valuable. I always said to myself that once I became chair of a music department, All-Steinway School status would be the first thing I pursued.”
Rowley made a call to Susan Lutz, Senior Director, Division of Education and Performance at Steinway Piano Gallery – Washington, DC.
“Given Dr. Rowley’s experiences at another All-Steinway School, he already knew the value,” she said. “He has so much energy; he wants to lead VSU to take over the world, musically. He’s the hero of this story, really,” she added. “Dr. Rowley and I performed a Piano Inventory Analysis. He and I reviewed the current Steinway inventory and came up with the final Steinway plan to propose to VSU’s Vice Provost, Dr. Kawachi Clemons. This plan was ultimately implemented and led to Steinway & Sons designating Virginia State University an All-Steinway School.”
Dr. Clemons, also a musician, was more than receptive. “The next thing I knew, the Vice Provost showed up in a meeting I was having with Dr. Rowley and basically said, ‘let’s make this happen,’” Lutz said. “I’ve rarely seen this level of commitment and energy to push forward to All-Steinway School status so quickly.”
“The university allocated the funds, very few questions asked,” Rowley said. “This means a lot in terms of VSU’s history and legacy. HBCUs historically were not supported, especially in the arts. For President Makola Abdullah and Provost Donald Palm to see that this was an important goal was a very big deal.”
Dr. Clemons explains that the decision came very simply, since the attainment of All-Steinway School status is completely in-line with VSU’s mission and vision. “The major priorities of our university are to provide the highest quality experiences for students, faculty, and staff, and this must include our facilities and equipment,” he said. “At VSU, Music is our oldest accredited program. We recognized that we absolutely needed upgrades in our piano inventory.”
With Lutz’s assistance, VSU took ownership of a Steinway & Sons Spirio Model D | r concert grand piano, the first Spirio D | r in any HBCU in the country. This amazing piece of equipment is a tool that will be used for performance, recording, Spiriocasts, virtual master classes, and many other educational activities. The instrument is gracing the stage of the Music Building (Davis Hall) Recital Hall for all students and professors to use. Also added to the VSU fleet are Steinway & Sons pianos for the piano professor’s office and the piano major practice rooms, and Steinway-designed Boston and Essex pianos for classrooms and practice rooms.
Clemons notes that the University community is already reaping the rewards of having the new pianos on campus. VSU recently welcomed guest artist Dr. Ronald McCurdy, Professor of Music at the University of Southern California, for a week-long residency. “It was so exciting to see the pianos come to life in the performance and workshops,” Clemons said. “When I see the possibilities of what we can do with these pianos, I recognize how All-Steinway School status will set us apart from other institutions in terms of our commitment to high quality music performance and music instruction.”
“Dr. Rowley has a vision for taking VSU’s music department to the next level,” Lutz said. “Reaching All-Steinway School is laying a foundation for future greatness. We all see how Steinway can be the catalyst for making the school even greater, which is their motto, Greater Happens Here. It’s exciting to watch their greater continue to evolve.”
Photo credit Ervin B. Clarke