|Flourish Online Magazine||Fall 2012|
Atlanta Steinway Society: Heroes of the Keyboard
By Cheryl D. Anderson
Joy and Rex Simms (front right), April and Bill Conaway (back right), and Barbara Kirby (left)
Photo by Tracie L. Hinnant
When people give $100,000 to the Kennesaw State University College of the Arts, they are designated as “Heroes” on the donor list. If you added up all of the contributions from the members of one Atlanta music club, it would make them a society of heroes.
Founded in 1980, the Atlanta Steinway Society is devoted to supporting young pianists and to promoting piano music performance. Members of the society raise money to award scholarships to piano students. Typically, the awards rotate among Atlanta’s colleges, with three or four awards each year. Through this rotation, every college in metro Atlanta has benefited throughout the last three decades.
Kennesaw State was included in that lineup for many years, receiving a piano scholarship every couple of years. Then, something changed. KSU piano professors Joseph Meeks and David Watkins began spending more time with the Atlanta Steinway Society.
“Joe and David and I used to go to dinner regularly,” says Society founder Barbara Kirby. “Their support of us and their enthusiasm for Steinway pianos led us to start giving scholarships to Kennesaw more frequently.” Soon, a KSU student was receiving a scholarship every year. Eventually, the Steinway Society established an endowment at KSU to ensure that piano students will benefit in perpetuity.
The relationship is different with KSU, according to Society president April Conaway, because KSU is more actively engaged with the Society’s programming. “If we want to have a concert, KSU is always willing to identify students for us, and we usually pay a little honorarium to show the students how much we believe in the value of their talent and hard work.”
The Society believes KSU has a “model” School of Music. “It is such a vibrant, growing school. We want to bring young people into the music world, and KSU seems to be one of the best in showcasing and preparing up-and-coming young artists,” says longtime member Joy Simms. In fact, Soohyun Yun, assistant professor, Joseph Meeks, dean of the College of the Arts, and Timothy J. Ste. Marie, marketing consultant, all serve on the advisory board for the Society.
Many members of the Atlanta Steinway Society also show their support of KSU by attending concerts throughout the year. A few have become enthusiastic fans of different faculty artists. For instance, Conaway and her husband can always be seen at the Faculty Jazz Parliament, while Kirby is now a devotee of Russell Young, KSU professor of opera, which led her to fund an opera scholarship this year.
As serious as this Society of heroes is about music, they also appreciate that they can just have a good time with their friends at KSU. “At the luncheon for scholarship sponsors this year,” Conaway enthuses, “I had my picture taken with School of Music director Harry Price and the KSU Owl. I don’t know how Harry felt about it, but I thought it was grand!"