The piano previously was owned and loved by a retired doctor who had purchased it with the goal of becoming a better pianist – at age 85.
Declining health necessitated moving to his son’s condo in Chicago, but there was no way to get the instrument into the apartment.
PianoForte Chicago, which originally sold him the F278, agreed to take it back in trade for a smaller new Fazioli. The plan was to bring the doctor’s piano to NIU, where it could be used while being prepared for sale.
Faculty and students quickly fell in love with it, however, prompting College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Rich Holly to begin seeking a donor.
Through alumnus Jeff Yordon, a connection was made to the Dr. Agnes Varis Charitable Trust, the trustees of which approved NIU’s application for funds to purchase this amazing piano.
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. 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.
Members of the NIU campus community and alumni now are invited to the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, for a dedication concert to celebrate this gift.
“One of the Varis trustees will be present at the concert,” said Paul Bauer, director of the NIU School of Music. “Let’s fill every seat and express our appreciation for their generous gift in memory of a woman who loved the arts.”
Faculty and students will play the Fazioli, as well as works for four grand pianos (including the school’s Steinway Model D, Schimmel K280 and Yamaha CFIII), in a fitting demonstration of the many ways this instrument will be used over the coming decades.
The Homecoming weekend program will include works by Debussy, Gounod, Schumann, Liszt and others, and conclude with a four-piano rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
The concert is free, and the Music Building auditorium is accessible to all. For more information, contact Holly at (815) 753-1138 or [email protected].