Piano is a key addition to URI’s Memorial Union

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 28, 2001 — There’s a baby making sounds in the main lounge of the Memorial Union at the University of Rhode Island these days. It has 88 keys, spindly legs, and enjoying great health following an $11,200 restoration. The baby is a 1916 Steinway baby grand piano and its presence in the main lounge has created more than a few oohs and ahhs.

The out-of-tune piano had earlier sat out of the limelight on the ballroom stage. The transformation came about when Bruce Hamilton, director of the Memorial Union, and Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, got together. Hamilton was concerned about the barely used piano, Brownell was looking for sites that music and non-music major students could practice and perform. Students, that is, who were “Steinway” worthy as determined by Joe Parillo, jazz pianist and director of jazz studies at URI.

The piano was valued at $25,000 and fundraising for the restoration began. Thanks to the Memorial Union, the College of Arts and Sciences, the President’s Office, the Student Senate, the Union Board, the Alumni Association, and the Parents Council, the piano, restored with authentic Steinway parts, was soon fit as a fiddle.

“We are delighted to help restore the Steinway so that students with exceptional keyboarding skills, regardless of their major, could have access to this exquisite instrument,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Winifred Brownell. “Everyone will be able to enjoy the results of our collaborative efforts through the new lunchtime express concert series featuring students, faculty, and alumni who will perform on the Steinway.”

“It was well worth doing. Live music brings an added dimension to the Memorial Union and gives us a chance to showcase the wonderful talent on this campus,” said Hamilton.

The piano was rededicated in October with a concert featuring newly-hired professor of piano Manabu Takasawa, recently retired piano professor Donald Rankin, jazz director Joe Parillo, a couple of students and two alumni who majored in non-music fields: Gregory Cooper, a computer scientist working on his doctorate at Brown University and Dr. Enrico Garzilli, who earned his degree in comparative literature.

Monthly lunchtime express concerts are currently being planned for noon on the first Wednesday of most months during the academic year. The Joe Parillo Trio launched the series in November. The next concert on Wednesday, December 5 will feature students and faculty members.

The concerts are being funded by the Steve Rubin and Jean Moore Fund for the Humanities and the Arts, established by Steve Rubin who graduated from URI with a degree in English in 1964 and is chair of the English Department at South Florida University in Tampa, and his wife, Jean Moore.

For Information: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116