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School of Music celebrates new grand piano

April 3, 2013
Rich Holly and Paul Bauer

Rich Holly and Paul Bauer

The NIU School of Music is now the proud owner of a remarkable Italian Fazioli F278 9-foot grand piano, thanks to a $100,000 grant check received today from the Dr. Agnes Varis Trust.

NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Richard Holly authored the grant at the urging of NIU alumnus and valued patron Jeffrey Yordon, who was familiar with the trust.

The grant application noted, “The Northern Illinois University School of Music is a leading supplier of arts programming in the entire northern Illinois region, including Chicago. The school boasts a Top 10 jazz program, an elite world music program, is home to the noted Avalon String Quartet, and several additional areas of distinction … the NIU School of Music provides live performances and instruction and also uses internet video technologies for performing and teaching, to engage more than a half-million people in the past year through live and online teaching and performance activities.”

The “new” Fazioli piano was gently used in a private home for several years and is in like-new condition. This instrument would normally cost $180,000, but PianoForte Chicago, the same partner who facilitated the School of Music’s acquisition of a rare Hamburg Steinway Model C grand piano last fall, was able to provide this piano from a private owner for virtually half the cost of a new Fazioli shipped from Italy.

With its first pianos built only 30 years ago, Fazioli has quickly gained a reputation as the most finely crafted pianos in the world – only 110 are made each year in Italy – and the Fazioli piano has been described as “an instrument of rare distinction.”

PianoForte Chicago allowed NIU to “audition” the instrument for several months, and it was indeed a special instrument. NIU piano faculty member and Distinguished Teaching Professor William Goldenberg exclaimed, “It’s fantastic. I’m thrilled we’ll have it.”

Fazioli Pianoforti Model F278The Fazioli F278 joins a wonderful New York Steinway Model D 9-foot piano in Boutell Concert Hall. Along with the Recital Hall’s new Grotrian Model 225 and wonderful Hamburg Steinway Model C grand piano (both from Germany), “these four performance grand pianos comprise the finest collection of performance pianos in the Midwest, comparable to the best that could be found anywhere in the country. The music from these instruments will enrich the lives of our students, faculty, guest artists and audiences in DeKalb and around the world for decades to come,” said Paul Bauer, director of the NIU School of Music.

Varis (1930-2011) believed that philanthropy uplifts both the individual and the community.

A legendary business leader, Varis co-founded Marsam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Aegis Pharmaceuticals, both generic pharmaceutical companies. Varis and her husband supported the arts, especially music, which they both believed “belonged to the people.”

During her lifetime, Varis donated more than $30 million to various arts programs, many at the Metropolitan Opera and the Jazz Foundation of America. At Jazz at Lincoln Center, she built the Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rehearsal and Recording Studio, one of the largest recording studios in New York City.

In 2010, Varis was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (PCAH). Upon her death, on July 29, 2011, members in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives publicly recognized her achievements in business and philanthropy and thanked her for her service to the people of her country.