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University purchases 48 Steinway pianos for new Lewis Center

When the new Lewis Center for the Arts officially opens this weekend, 48 new Steinway & Sons pianos will be among the complex's new features. Selected and purchased over the course of two years, these instruments were specifically chosen from a pool of 200 possible instruments by University faculty and students, according to the University Office of Communications.


Andrew Or GS and Nico Toy ’18, both in the computer science department, traveled with music lecturers Margaret Kampmeier and Jennifer Tao to select the pianos. Beginning at the Steinway factory in Queens, N.Y., the group also tested pianos in Lawrenceville, N.J. and Philadelphia, Pa. Along the way, they were able to observe the piano assembly process — a task that takes a year — in detail. 

To build a piano, wood is conditioned over the course of several months and molded into a grand piano’s familiar curved shape. The piano is then constructed around the curved frame.

“I thought it was interesting how much of the process is entirely handmade versus put into machines,” Or said, according to a press release.

Henry Valoris, production manager for the University's music department, said in the press release that the piano selection process began in 2015, noting that the instruments have slowly been narrowed down to the final purchases at present.

Toy and Valoris did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

The pianos were tested in two rooms, in order to hear their range of expression in different environments. 


“The qualities that we are looking for would be the pianos that have a wide range of expression,” Tao said in the press release.

The pianos will allow greater opportunities for independent practice, as well as complement teaching in the arts. Student groups such as the Princeton Pianists Ensemble will remain in the Woolworth Center for Musical Studies in the near future, according to PPE president Kevin Zhang ’18. However, PPE is certainly not limited to Woolworth, and several PPE members have already used the new practice rooms and pianos. 

Gloria Yin ’18, PPE President emerita, said “the fact that there are many more practice rooms with shiny new pianos makes a big difference.” 

“The pianos are in amazing condition, and the practice rooms are really spacious, with a view,” PPE Social Chair Tony Chen ’20 added.

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The pianos are located in a variety of settings, from teaching studios to practice rooms to rehearsal halls to dance studios to theaters. Their presence should enhance the ability of the entire Lewis arts complex to promote artistic life on the University campus.

Four of the pianos will be in action this weekend when the Princeton Pianists Ensemble performs on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. in the Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room.