Brentwood’s young pianists will not only learn on the very best-made pianos in the world, but enjoy benefits including regular masterclasses with Steinway artists and the chance to perform in the recital space at Steinway Hall, in London.
The School’s Steinway journey - which will see it become one of only 16 Steinway Schools in the UK - started last Friday with a once in a lifetime trip to the Steinway factory in Hamburg and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to select 11 hand-crafted instruments.
Five of the School’s music scholars joined Director of Music, Mr Florian Cooper, for the memorable outing which included a tour of the expansive factory, lunch in the Steinway Board Room, and then the lengthy and meticulous piano selection process.
Mr Cooper said the five scholars, who will benefit enormously from the Steinway Accreditation, thoroughly enjoyed the rare musical treat: “We had a truly magnificent day, which far exceeded my expectations and will live long in our memories,” he explained.
The lucky five - First Year Oliver; Second Year Bessie; Third Years Sophia and Alexander, and Fourth Year Sammy - are all multi-instrumentalist and hugely committed to school music.
A very proud Mr Cooper said: “They showed maturity, musical talent and academic prowess throughout the day. Everyone they came into contact with remarked on not just their immense performances on the piano, but on their nuanced and astute critique of the instruments and thoughtful questions. They were a true credit to the School.”
Steinway & Sons’ name has been synonymous with the finest pianos since 1853 and a high level of traditional craftsmanship, painstaking attention to detail, and premium grade materials used are attributes of every instrument hand crafted in New York and Hamburg.
Upon arrival at Steinway, the Brentwood group was given a tour of the large factory, and enjoyed an extremely detailed display of how the pianos are made - a privilege very few get to experience as the factory is not open to the public.
Mr Cooper said: “It was amazing to see just how much attention and craft is involved with the making of these instruments, which each take a year to make and are still largely built by hand, using original techniques and built by professionals with many years of specialised experience.”
Lunch in the Steinway Board Room was followed by the highlight of the day, the selection of Brentwood School’s four Steinway grand pianos. “I hadn't previously anticipated just how involved this process would be and how much choice we would have about the instruments that we were selecting,” said Mr Cooper. A Steinway grand piano consists of more than 12,000 single pieces!
“What was most remarkable was that the children had a huge say in the decision making process and were guided expertly into assessing which instruments best suited the needs of the different spaces and requirements we have at school.
“We went through the same process to select two model A/S pianos (for rehearsals and practice in the Music Department), one Model A for recital and concert use in the Memorial Hall and then our Model B for masterclass, recital, performance and accompaniment in the Wessex Auditorium.”
During the selection process, each student played segments of their repertoire on each piano (always from memory) and displayed a range of styles and genres. “All five performed flawlessly and there was obvious delight in the room, from Steinway employees used to hearing the very best, at the technical aptitude but also musical interpretation of our young students,” said Mr Cooper.
The students were encouraged to rank the pianos according to different criteria: Touch and ease to play; Tone colour and suitability to performance space, and range of tonal colours available and to what extent they suited different repertoire.
“Despite every piano in the room being of flawless quality, I was amazed by how quickly the students were able to make nuanced judgments about the relative merits of each piano and how quickly they were able to aurally visualise the spaces in which the pianos would be used. In the end we have picked four pianos, each suited to its intended venue and purpose and in which the students feel real ownership.
“The most exciting is perhaps our Model B, which we have chosen to be suitable to the very best pianists in the world and for high level concert/concert performance - given our status we will now be able to invite Steinway artists to Brentwood School to give masterclasses, perform alongside our students and give recitals to the wider school community.”
Brentwood School’s Performing Arts Department was recently selected as the best Performing Arts School in and around London and on top of Steinway Accreditation, the flourishing faculty runs a Minority Instrument Scheme and the provision of free school instruments, to be loaned to students across the school.
The new pianos will be delivered on Friday, 8th November, and unveiled at a special concert in the School’s Wessex Auditorium which will see all 11 of the new pianos played by notable guests and culminating in a special rendition of the School Song.