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Hamlisch to play college's new piano

November 17, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd College's Department of Music is setting its sights high this year.

First came the news that Shepherd could be the first school on the East Coast to purchase a rare Italian-made piano known as a Fazioli.

To top it off, famous pianist Marvin Hamlisch is coming here in April to play it.

It all started when the school decided it needed a new concert grand piano, said Mark McCoy, chairman of Shepherd's music department.

McCoy started thinking about a highly-acclaimed Fazioli piano, which was designed by an Italian engineer and pianist.

The Fazioli piano - which retails for about $140,000 - possesses a number of unique characteristics, including using the same wood that is used to build Stradivarius violins, McCoy said.

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The result is a "luxurious" instrument that holds a beautiful pitch from the lower notes to the higher ones, McCoy said.

"Once you have a Fazioli, no other piano will do," McCoy said.

McCoy first made the pitch to buy a Fazioli piano to Friends of Music, the charitable arm of the school's music department.

McCoy told group members that if the school could buy such a piano, it might attract some top piano players to Shepherd for performances.

School officials decided to go with McCoy's idea and began referring to the cause as "The Year of the Piano."

There have been two "Year of the Piano" concerts this year to raise money for the Fazioli and contributions have started to stream in, McCoy said.

McCoy could not say exactly how much has been raised, but said fund-raising is near the halfway point.

McCoy declined to say how much the school will pay for the Fazioli, but said the college got a good deal on one through The Piano Co., a shop in Leesburg, Va. The school started leasing the Fazioli it hopes to own, he said.

Not about to rest on its laurels, the music department began dreaming big for a guest pianist.

It began looking at Hamlisch, and after several months of negotiations, the famous conductor and arranger agreed to appear at Shepherd on April 18, McCoy said.

"He will by far be the biggest name we have ever had there," McCoy said.

Hamlisch has led the great orchestras of the world and holds an impressive achievement record, including four Grammys, three Oscars and the Pulitzer Prize. Hamlisch also was the musical director and manager of Barbra Streisand's 1994 U.S. tour.

Hearing him perform is a unique opportunity for local music lovers.

Hamlisch typically plays for thousands of spectators at a time, but fans for the April 18 show can look forward to a far more intimate setting at the 460-seat auditorium in the Frank Creative Arts Center. Tickets to a Hamlisch show can cost upward of $1,000, but will be $50 that night, McCoy said.

Proceeds from the ticket sales will go toward the purchase of the Fazioli piano, McCoy said.

After the show, Hamlisch will appear at a party at the home of Shepherd College President David L. Dunlop. People who donated at least $1,000 toward the purchase of the piano will be invited, McCoy said.

Also that day, the school formally will open an addition to the Frank Center, which will include new music rehearsal and practice rooms, McCoy said.

Shepherd College offers bachelor's degrees in music education and music performance, and it is working to develop a master's program, McCoy said.

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