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Drake announces partnership with Yamaha during recital by Russian pianist

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Olga Kern addresses the audience filling Sheslow Auditorium.

A magnificent performance by Russian virtuoso pianist Olga Kern on Oct. 11 culminated in the announcement of a new partnership between Drake University and Kern’s sponsor, Yamaha Corp. of America.

Yamaha, the world’s largest manufacturer of a full line of musical instruments, offered Drake officials the opportunity to buy nearly 70 pianos at a substantial cost discount. The company also named Nicholas Roth, associate professor of piano at Drake, a Yamaha Artist in Education.

Mark Barrett, regional representative of Yamaha Corporation of America, made the announcements following intermission of Kern’s performance Oct. 11, in Sheslow Auditorium.

“The partnership with Yamaha and selection of Nicholas Roth as a Yamaha Artist in Education demonstrates our clear commitment to providing our students with an exceptional learning environment and the recognition of the superlative quality of our faculty,” said Joe Lenz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

An online gallery of concert and reception photos is available here.

Kern’s performance draws standing ovation

Kern, winner of the Gold Medal at the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, played nearly two hours on the world’s only Yamaha CFX Grand Piano, which debuted earlier this year to rave reviews for its revolutionary sonorous clarity and extensive tonal range. The piano was delivered to Drake on Monday afternoon, and set up and tuned by a Yamaha technician prior to the concert.

Kern’s program featured Haydn Sonata No. 48 in C major, followed by the Schumann “Carnaval,” Op. 9, the Rachmaninoff Sonata No. 2 and “Islamey (Oriental Fantasy)” by Mily Balakirev. The explosive and dynamic performance drew a standing ovation.

“The extraordinary audience turnout is testimony to the strong community support for events of this caliber,” Roth said. “It was especially gratifying to see such a large number of students in attendance. It is so important for young people to experience high-level artistry like last night’s performance. As music educators, one of our most fervent wishes is to build a future audience for the fine arts.”

Drake seeks funds to buy new pianos

Yamaha Corp. of America has offered discounts to Drake University to buy as many as 68 pianos for the music department.

Drake officials are seeking gifts and pledges to finance the purchase of new pianos as part of the distinctlyDrake fundraising campaign. The pianos will be purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis through a partnership with West Music, a Coralville-based company that sells pianos across Iowa.

Joe Lenz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, told the recital audience that the average manufacture date of the pianos in Drake’s Music Department is 1960, with many of them being much older than that.

“Many of you, having studied music at Drake, will have rehearsed on these pianos. Then, your children who came to study at Drake would have used these same pianos,” Lenz said. “Upgrading the overall quality of the instruments will have considerable impact on the quality of music education at Drake. We want our students to have the best possible learning experience — whether they are practicing or performing.”