Donor's gift helps Amarillo College refresh music department piano fleet
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Thanks to a generous donor, the Amarillo College Music Department gradually will refresh its aging fleet of pianos with a model specifically designed to perform well in the Texas Panhandle climate.

An as yet unnamed donor has agreed to give $100,000 toward the purchase of two Shigeru series grand pianos by Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., AC Executive Vice President and General Counsel Mark White said.

With the understanding that a purchasing relationship will exist in the future between AC and Kawai, the company is selling the pianos to the college for about $50,000 each – about half their retail price.

The new pianos are part of a phased plan to update the 27 aging pianos used by the music department for instruction and used by community partners for camps and other events said Camille Day Nies, chair of the AC music department.

With the exception of a Steinway concert piano – also funded by a benefactor's gift – the new pianos will be the first updates during the past 30 years.

“We’ve been working on a piano replacement plan for years now, so this has really enabled us to start making some positive changes in this area and really is the tipping point for us to make changes with a fabulous company,” Nies said.

As pianos age, maintenance becomes more frequent and costly. Kawai's Shigeru pianos incorporate the new carbon fiber technology into their design. Nies said carbon fiber pianos are more durable and can better withstand the intense fluctuations in Texas Panhandle heat and humidity levels than standard wooden pianos.

The longer-term goal is to continue to buy instruments through Kawai to get 75 percent of its fleet of the manufacturer's instruments. That would make AC's music department an "EPIC partner" with Kawai, a designation the company gives to certain institutions that allows them to purchase instruments at sponsored cost levels. Only 13 schools around the world now are part of that program, according to Kawai's website.

Diego Caetano, AC assistant professor of music, will select the two pianos that will be delivered to campus.

The college plans additional announcements and events related to the arrival of the new Kawai pianos later this summer and fall.


Mike Smith is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. Contact him at, on Twitter at @newsmithm and on Facebook.