An extraordinary commitment to the arts:
Making a Musical Statement at St. Joseph
CITY of ST. JOSEPH, MO. – In the face of a challenging economy and a new accreditation process that “seemed to devalue the arts,” Dr. Melody Smith took an astonishing step that won praises throughout the St. Joseph Public School District.
Aging, useless pianos at Benton, Central and Lafayette High Schools were in dire need of replacement. “We had to do something,” says Dr. Smith, the SJSD superintendent who enthusiastically convinced the Board of Education to purchase three Boston GP-215 Performance Edition grand pianos.
“We have a high poverty level, and I’m passionate – driven to make sure the arts are lifted up in this community,” the former language arts and drama teacher explains. “The role of the school is to open the arts, and offer them in a way that they are part of changing a child’s life.”
The seven foot Boston grand pianos share a unique legacy with Steinway & Sons. A tapered Sitka spruce soundboard and wide tail design contribute to a full, rich sound that immediately impressed the team of accompanists, choir directors and music teachers from the district. Dr. Smith insisted that the group spend a day testing pianos.
“Several of the teachers and accompanists commented on the rich tone quality,” says Kevin Griffin, SJSD Secondary Fine Arts Coordinator. “One of the accompanists talked about the responsive action of the keys. I know that all of us were excited to be purchasing such wonderful pianos.”
Schmitt Music Company in Kansas City has been working closely with the district since November, 2010. “Originally, they wanted to compare other brands and Boston,” says Harry Reed, Senior Piano Specialist. “Ultimately, the very idea that they are Boston –Designed by Steinway & Sons– helped them decide,” he adds. “The reputation and recognition of Boston pianos grows with every new installation.”
Dr. Smith was influenced by the fact that Missouri Western State University, located in close proximity to SJSD, is an All-Steinway School: “Steinway is the gold standard, so it’s a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.”
The Boston grand pianos bring a new dynamic to the district’s vocal, instrumental and drama programs. “These instruments reflect and mirror the quality, construction and performance we expect in our department,” she asserts.
Even in their quietest hours, the pianos inspire a teaching moment. “We told the students that we have a precious commodity. It’s a privilege to care for these great instruments,” Dr. Smith says, adding that new acquisitions are preserved in humidity- controlled storage units at the auditoriums.
“We’re privileged that the community supported us, and the Board of Education supported the arts in our schools by putting these fine instruments in our auditoriums to be enjoyed by thousands of students, faculty, parents and community members well into the future,” she concludes.