University of Mobile piano students and faculty traveled to New York in April to select the perfect grand piano to honor the memory of William Myers “Billy” Breland. On May 3, 2016, they gathered again in Moorer Auditorium on the University of Mobile campus as the piano was delivered.
The 7-foot Steinway B brings the university another step closer to becoming an All-Steinway School, a prestigious designation meaning that nearly all of the pianos used by the students and faculty are considered by professionals to be the best pianos in the world.
The university still needs about $69,900 in contributions to the All Steinway, All Together campaign to bring the final pianos home. A $250,000 matching gift from Mike Atkins and Sherry Turner kicked off the campaign in Fall 2015. More than half of the total 22 pianos needed have been delivered and are in use in practice rooms and recital hall.
To donate or learn more about the All Steinway, All Together campaign, go online to umobile.edu/Steinway or call the UMobile Development Office at 251.442.2412.
The Billy Breland Memorial Steinway B was made possible through donations made in memory of Billy Breland. He was the brother of Gospel Music Hall of Fame member Roger Breland, and the Brelands worked together in founding and managing the renowned contemporary Christian music group, TRUTH. Recently, the Christian university’s music school was named The Roger Breland School of Music.
Roger Breland, piano faculty Becky Fox and Dr. Kadisha Onalbayeva, along with seven UMobile piano majors, hand-picked the piano at the Steinway factory in New York. The students and faculty played six pianos, from which they chose “The Billy.”
Rebekah Lipscombe, a freshman music education major, was one of the seven piano majors who went to New York to pick out the piano.
“I sat down at piano 1 and started playing, and it and it was like the piano said, ‘Hi, I’m it, pick me.’ I just knew, I immediately knew. It was a special little moment. I played the others as well but there just wasn’t something special about them like there was with this one,” Lipscombe said.
Roger Breland said “Every piano has a different musical personality”. They chose the piano that had “a striking, more bright sound” suitable for a concert hall setting.
According to Emily La Force, a senior music composition piano major, the main question was “What’s going to help the students’ technique, and what’s going to help them become better musicians? So we chose the one that would help challenge the students academically.”
Becky Fox, associate professor of piano, said by becoming an All-Steinway School, “we are striving to make our school better, and by being a Christian university, we strive to make Christ the center of everything we do…So I feel like He deserves the best because He is The Lord, and He is the one who has His hand on our university. That’s our responsibility, to make it better.”
As they were unveiling the piano after it had been assembled on stage, Breland said, “We don’t just buy instruments; we invest in our students.”
Breland said the new piano will be featured later this year when the school presents a concert celebrating the completion of the All Steinway, All Together campaign.
(Marketing & Public Relations intern Ashley Bonds contributed to this report.)