BEMIDJI-Bemidji State University's Department of Music welcomed a brand-new Steinway Model B grand piano into the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex on Feb. 27, thanks to a generous donation from Marilyn Vogel and Leland Wilkinson.
The gift kicks off a long-term plan for Bemidji State - which has officially been designated as an all-Steinway school since 2002 - to replace all but one of its Steinway grand pianos, most of which are between 50-60 years old.
Bemidji State's Department of Music will debut the piano at a free recital at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 29 in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex Main Theatre. Three Bemidji State students will perform solos on the piano, and Carlson will both perform a solo and accompany Dr. Cory Renbarger, associate professor of music at BSU and coordinator of applied voice.
Justin Klander, an advancement officer for the BSU Foundation, worked with Vogel and Wilkinson on the gift.
Bemidji native Vogel graduated from Bemidji State in 1971 with degrees in music and geography, and also has a juris doctorate from William Mitchell Law School. She is retired following a career as a general counsel in the telecommunications industry.
Wilkinson, an accomplished amateur pianist, is a statistician and computer scientist. He earned degrees from Harvard and Yale and spent time as an adjunct computer science faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The brand-new Model B cost approximately $90,000 after discounts and a trade-in credit on the Steinway Model L - a model which Steinway officially retired in 2005 - it has replaced. That Model L had served Bemidji State's Bangsberg Main Theatre for six decades.
Dr. Stephen Carlson, professor of music and chair of the BSU music department, says the piano illustrates the university's commitment to performance art and the Department of Music.
"We want our students and faculty to have the best possible instruments on which to practice, rehearse and perform," he said. "This piano should serve the university for the next half century."
Carlson said the Model B will create new opportunities for BSU's Main Theatre to host chamber and vocal recitals and will dramatically improve the quality of the department's regular performances, such as accompanying the Bemidji Choir and jazz band.
Carlson, Klander and Dr. Jim Barta, dean of BSU's College of Arts, Education and Humanities, traveled to the Steinway & Sons factory in Astoria, N.Y., in January, where Carlson hand-selected BSU's new piano.
"Each Steinway has its own unique personality," he said. "This Model B has a dark, rich timbre, and I selected it knowing it will be ideal for chamber music."
An accomplished pianist and head of piano studies in the Department of Music, Carlson made his New York debut in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, was recently honored by his doctoral institution, the University of Iowa. Along with colleagues, gave a live performance for Minnesota Public Radio in the fall of 2017.