Published: May 1, 2020

College of Music partners to deliver pianos to stay-at-home students

Contact(s): Rick Seguin College of Music office: 517-353-9958, Caroline Brooks Communications and Brand Strategy office: 517-432-0920

When Michigan State University closed doors to campus buildings, several College of Music students found themselves scrambling to retrieve instruments they needed. Most were fortunate and got what they needed to practice at home and continue classes remotely, but not all were so lucky.

To meet the needs of students who did not have their instruments — or who lived in apartments without the space for pianos — the college’s faculty and staff stepped in to find solutions. Deborah Moriarty, chair of the Piano Area at MSU, identified those students without instruments, and the college’s head piano technician, Mary Luisi Lapprand, developed a plan.

“We thought briefly about moving digital pianos from the college to the students, but that would have involved a lot of people handling the pianos and having contact with the students,” Lapprand said. “I realized that with the pianos West Michigan Piano (a Grand Rapids business) had in their inventory, it would be much cleaner and safer if they took them directly to students.”

In all, eight students have received digital pianos from West Michigan Piano without fees or contracts as a “no-strings-attached loan” for however long they need it.

West Michigan Piano has a longstanding history with MSU. Owner Ken Wierenga has been in business in Grand Rapids since 1979, but his relationship with the university and the College of Music goes back to his days as a high school student attending summer band camps on campus.

For years, the company has loaned new pianos to MSU for faculty offices, rehearsal spaces and special concerts. As an exclusive dealer of Steinway & Sons pianos, they have loaned two concert grands to the college every other year for the Piano Monster concert. The popular event which returns in 2021 is among many occasions the company has come through when needed.

“The music college at MSU is a great asset to the state, and we are happy to do our part to help the students,” Wierenga said.

MSU faculty have gone the extra mile to help students since classes transitioned to remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Percussion faculty Gwendolyn Dease and Jon Weber worked to get marimbas or vibraphones for students who needed them for the semester and through the summer.

Relationships faculty and staff have formed with partner organizations over the years have proven critical during the novel coronavirus health crisis.

“Mary is a great advocate for the college — so much more than a piano tech who just wants to tune the piano and be done. I don’t know of any other school that has an advocate like her,” Wierenga said

“From our piano chair (Moriarty) getting the information, to our Dean James Forger contacting the provost and getting permission, to Ken saying ‘sure, we’d be glad to’ — it was a team effort,” Lapprand said. “From the time I first asked for help to the actual delivery of the pianos by the company’s great delivery team — everybody was able to work together to make sure it was safe and effective.”

College of Music student Xing Zhang was one of eight students who received a loaned piano from West Michigan Piano to help complete studies during a semester under quarantine.

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