Lock Haven University’s decision to donate 11 Steinway pianos to other institutions marks the day the music died at a Pennsylvania junior college—or at least the day the music major officially ended.
Steinway pianos — used by artists from John Lennon to Billy Joel onwards — are promising and expensive instruments, with price tags as high as $100,000 apiece depending on the model. Since 2008, Lock Haven has had 22 Steinways on campus, thanks to a gift from 1966 alumna and LHU Vice Chair of Trustees Margery Dosey and her late husband. This gift led Penn College to achieve Steinway’s status, which the manufacturer of universities around the world gives, often to the most prestigious music schools, that only has a Steinway piano on campus.
Now, with Dosey’s blessing, 11 of those 22 Steinway pianos are headed elsewhere.
A bachelor’s degree in music education, established around the same time as Dosey’s Gift, is also on its way out, a victim of low enrollment and a plan to merge six public universities in Pennsylvania. According to the university, there were no students enrolled in music majors when the cut was announced last year. Lock Haven is now converting 11 Steinways into two sister universities and other nonprofits.
“Based on the low use of Lock Haven, it makes sense to move some pianos to our integration partners, the Universities of Bloomsburg and Mansfield. Both institutions have strong and vibrant music programs that can immediately benefit from donations to allow these wonderful instruments to be maintained and operated,” the speaker wrote. On behalf of the university, Doug Spatafor in an email.
In addition, two of the piano will go to the local school districts and the other to the church.
“A Steinway is awarded to Renovo Elementary School – one of the youngest rural schools in the system where piano is expected to have an immediate transformative effect on developing young minds – helping to instill and enhance an appreciation for music,” he said.
The final melody of the main music
Spatafor noted that if students at Renovo Elementary School were inspired by the new piano to study music in college, they wouldn’t be able to do so at Lock Haven, at least not as a major — although music would still be part of the general education curriculum.
The cutting off of the music major at Lock Haven, a rural campus about three hours from Pittsburgh, said Richard Jolly, the university’s history professor and branch president, means less choice for local students who make up the vast majority of the campus community. From the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Colleges.
“The abolition of studies programs (majors) greatly reduces opportunities for rural residents in central PA and contradicts the purpose of the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), of which LHU is one of 14 universities, to provide a comprehensive experience in higher education to the citizens of PA at the best price,” Juliet wrote in an email.
Joule said the official announcement of the end of the music major came in March 2021. He noted that the end of this program — and others — comes “from mandates from the office of the Chancellor, Dr. Daniel Greenstein, that all 14 universities at PASSHE meet financial sustainability metrics based on a formula that arose from West Chester University (WCU).
He said the metrics take into account factors such as the number of majors and degrees offered at each university, along with student-faculty ratios and other numbers. But Gault is questioning the formula because “the benchmarks used WCU numbers,” and West Chester is larger and closer to Philadelphia than Lock Haven, he noted.
Eliminating the Lock Haven music major also means losing faculty. One music professor has already been cut. Gullit said music professor David Curtin has received a “letter of intent to undo spending,” describing the phrase as higher education jargon for his “class,” and could see his job eliminated by June 2023.
Kirten did not respond to a request for comment.
With 11 Steinways on hand, Lock Haven maintains its full Steinway status even as major music gets rid of, as all remaining pianos come from the manufacturer. Other colleges in the Pennsylvania system will benefit from Lock Haven’s generosity; The University of Bloomsburg and the University of Mansfield will each receive four Stenoways.
“The four pianos received from Lock Haven will bring Mansfield closer to All-Steinway status and enhance the delivery of available musical instruments to students,” Ryan McNamara, a Mansfield spokesperson, wrote in an email. “The noticeable effect is that one of the piano will be used in the recording studio of the music department, where previously there was no piano available.”
He added that the other three pianos will be used for students’ practice, tutoring, and education.
“The pianos will be located at our Haas Center for the Arts and will be used by faculty and students for academic purposes,” Bloomsberg spokesperson Tom McGuire said via email.
Other Victims of Integration
Although the physical removal and transfer of 11 pianos from Steinway may have been a visual symbol of the dismantling of Lock Haven’s musical program, it wasn’t the only major cut made as the Pennsylvania system of higher education was rethought by academics amid ongoing amalgamation.
Gul also noted previous cutbacks in foreign languages and proposed cancellation of programs or concentrations in areas such as mathematics, physics, geology, sports training and various other fields.
Spatafor said that students registered in the majors that will be cut will be able to finish their degrees as these degrees are terminated.
These cuts are expected to be followed by the loss of additional faculty positions. However, Gault said the cancellation of many programs does not happen without a fight from the faculty union.
“APSCUF has filed a political complaint against management for failing to follow through on the endowment programming process as described in our collective bargaining agreement,” Jollet said. The grievance continues.