Student in red shirt playing piano

Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) is excited to announce plans to invest more than $750,000 in new pianos over the next academic year. This initiative will primarily be funded through donor gifts ($275,000 has been secured to date). Additionally, the Smith Tieken Foundation will match the next $100,000 in contributions.

Dr. Kevin Hampton, who joined Roosevelt as CCPA dean in July 2023, says, “This project will benefit current and future students across all conservatories and programs, helping elevate our educational and artistic environment with a newly curated piano collection. Each of our 431 performing arts students relies on pianos in their training and performance.” The college offers a comprehensive catalog of 28 academic programs across three conservatories: music, theatre and interdisciplinary studies.

The Piano Improvement Project’s first phase—to be completed by Spring 2025—includes 47 new Yamaha instruments, from world-class concert grands to hybrid, Android- and iOS-compatible instruments that provide students access to leading recording and notation software.

Kirk Davis, district manager for Yamaha’s higher education solutions group, says, “Yamaha’s instruments are not only relevant today, but they also drive new opportunities for music education and arts appreciation in the future. Yamaha is proud to be involved in Roosevelt’s Piano Improvement Project, and we commend leadership and donors for the investments being made.”

The project’s instruments have been carefully selected by our expert faculty. Concert pianist and chair of the music conservatory Adam Neiman shares, “Each instrument will find its new home in one of our many performance, rehearsal and instructional spaces. These spaces are utilized by the greatest number of students on a day-to-day basis.” He continues, “These instruments will provide high-quality sound and consistent performance—enhancing our students’ learning experience and fine-tuning their artistic expertise.”

As of January 2024, Roosevelt owns 94 pianos. A careful review of all pianos found that 43 percent of these instruments are over 30 years old, and 51 percent are in “poor condition.” Hampton says, “The Piano Improvement Project will make buying new instruments a reality. New instruments typically require minimal maintenance and offer longevity, serving students for years to come and reprioritizing other financial resources.”

The aging fleet of instruments faces many issues that affect their sound and functionality, and maintenance has required diverting resources that could otherwise be allocated to student success programs. Prior to the project's launch, the most recently purchased pianos were five upright acoustic keyboards in 2017. That purchase was funded by an anonymous charitable contribution.

Barbara Zahora, associate professor and chair of the theatre conservatory, says, “Prospective students and families visiting campus will see and hear instruments like those at other top-ranked performing arts institutions, making Roosevelt more competitive. These instruments will also ensure a rich and immersive experience for students in their studio and classroom work, and for audiences attending productions.” Feedback from students, parents and other key stakeholders was critical in the prioritization of this project.

In early October, the project jump-started with the purchase of a new Yamaha Disklavier CFX concert grand for Ganz Hall. The instrument’s debut performance was given on November 3 by our phenomenal students and faculty members. Student Anila Aliu reflects on her performance, “The CFX really is a magnificent instrument and a vital addition to our space. The quality of its sound, resonance and response in just indescribable. I felt like a world class artist.”

To make higher education more accessible, Roosevelt University recently decreased tuition and fees by 40% for new undergraduate students. In turn, alternative funding streams are more critical than ever to address major capital projects like purchasing and maintaining pianos.

University leadership hopes the Smith Tieken Foundation’s $100,000 matching challenge will inspire community members to contribute to the project. A portion of all contributions will be directed to the Piano Improvement Endowed Fund, helping preserve these fine instruments. “Thanks to Smith Tieken, your gift can be matched dollar for dollar, and it will help sustain the investments we’re making in our students,” reinforces assistant vice president Jared Fritz-McCarty. This initiative will provide our students access to top-notch instruments.”

To learn more about the Piano Improvement Project, contact Fritz-McCarty at jmccarty@roosevelt.edu or 312-341-3519. Visit roosevelt.edu/pianoproject to make a contribution. Named, tribute and memorial gift opportunities are available upon inquiry.

Yamaha pianos to be purchased as part of the Piano Improvement Project

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