Arrival Of Steinway Grand At Vermont Jazz Center Means Big Things For Local Music Scene

Mar 22, 2016

The Vermont Jazz Center recently purchased a Steinway D grand piano. The Steinway D is the gold standard for concert pianos, and it ups the game at the Brattleboro nonprofit music organization.

The Steinway D is 9 feet long, and it weighs almost half-a-ton.

If you're going to invest the money in an instrument like this and haul the thing up to the second floor of a hundred-year-old former mill, where the jazz center's located, you better have some plans of hanging around for a while.

And that's exactly what this instrument means to Vermont Jazz Center Artistic Director Eugene Uman.

"So this is a statement saying that 'Yes. the jazz center is a flagship organization,' and that we have one of the best pianos in the state," Uman says. "And when jazz pianists are looking for a place to play they think about the jazz center because they know there's a beautiful piano here. And so, yeah, I'm making a statement saying, 'We're it.'"

Back in 1975, jazz guitarist Attila Zoller had a house in Newfane, and he'd invite his musician friends up to drink wine, eat his Hungarian food and play music.

That led to Zoller offering workshops and establishing the jazz center as a place for the serious study of music.

Today the Vermont Jazz Center has a full time artistic director, offers summer workshops and year round concerts with some of the hottest musicians in the world.

Uman says investing in a Steinway D is just one more way of carrying on Zoller's vision of bringing living,  breathing jazz music to southern Vermont.

Vermont Jazz Center Artistic Director Eugene Uman, right, plays the Steinway D in Bill Ballard's studio in Saxtons River before the instrument was shipped to Brattleboro.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

"Attila [Zoller] had a song called 'Meant to Be' and that was the one song that Attila made me memorize before he passed away," Uman says. "Attila certainly believed it, and I believe that if you work for things and have an open heart, and have good intention than things come to you. I believe that you make it happen ... And we made this happen."

"This is a statement saying that 'Yes, the jazz center is a flagship organization, and that we have one of the best pianos in the state.' So, yeah, I'm making a statement saying, 'We're it.'" — Eugene Uman, Vermont Jazz Center Artistic Director

The Vermont Jazz Center's Steinway D debuted at a concert with the Fred Hersch trio. It was a packed house, and while Hersch was the headliner, many in the crowd also came out for the special evening to welcome the Steinway to Brattleboro.

From the stage that night, Uman thanked the single donor who put up the money for the piano. He even played a recorded clip from the classical pianist Lorin Hollander, who owned it at one point.

The Vermont Jazz Center's new Steinway D grand piano.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Uman says this Steinway D grand piano sets up a legacy at the jazz center, and it will help attract an even higher level of artistry.

The group is renting extra space next door to build a temperature controlled room to protect the instrument, which Uman says should help provide music for jazz lovers in southern Vermont for a very long time.