The West Virginia University College of Creative Arts purchased 11 new Steinway pianos recently thanks to a generous planned gift by Rich and Deborah Harrison. The Harrison’s planned gift supports the College’s All-Steinway Campaign.
Harrison grew up in Clarksburg and received a BA in Political Science from Salem College and a BS in Business Administration from WVU in 1972. He served in the United States Navy and later worked as a human resource manager for Advanced Ceramics for 27 years before retiring in 2001. Harrison passed away in November 2019.
Harrison’s wife, Deborah, went to Fairmont State University and worked as a legal secretary for Steptoe and Johnson in Clarksburg. A member of St. James Catholic Church, Deborah enjoyed playing the organ for the congregation. She passed away in 2008.
“Working with Rich and Debbie over the years to help them reach their goals was a team effort beginning with now Vice-Provost and former Creative Arts Dean Paul Kreider, who passed the relationship with the Harrison’s onto me," said College of Creative Arts Dean Keith Jackson. "After Debbie passed away, Rich made it clear that he wanted to honor his wife’s memory and that he understood the power of active music making.
“With this gift we can continue to expand our reach by educating students of all ages and sharing high quality live and streamed performances.”
WVU is working to join approximately 150 other major universities across the country and throughout the world that use Steinway pianos exclusively. The All-Steinway designation will also allow the college to partner with more than 1,500 Steinway Artists worldwide, enhancing master classes and performances at WVU and providing performance opportunities at Steinway Hall in New York and at Steinway events worldwide.
Dean Jackson and a group of faculty members visited the Steinway and Sons Factory in New York to learn about the art of building the pianos and to select the pianos delivered to WVU.
“One of the critical aspects of this initiative is that we are committed to the quality of the experience we provide our students and audiences,” Jackson said. “Not only does Steinway build the best acoustic pianos in the profession, they have also developed new technology.”
One of the 11 pianos purchased is a Steinway Spirio, a high resolution player piano capable of live performance capture and playback. The Spirit provides a new way to access, share and experience performance.
“The Spirio is an acoustical instrument with the ability to accurately capture the artistry of the performer,” Jackson said. “This will allow us to enhance our pedagogy and interact with performers across the globe in meaningful and new ways.”