W-F receives $25,000 donation
By Angie Landsverk
The Weyauwega-Fremont School District has received a $25,000 donation to go toward the purchase of a grand piano for the high school’s new auditorium.
When the board meets in August, it will consider whether it wants to put that donation toward a used Steinway grand piano, available in the state at a cost of about $75,000.
District Administrator Scott Bleck announced the $25,000 donation during the July board meeting and said the donor wishes to remain anonymous.
He described the donor as a “person who appreciates education and music.”
The donor sees a grand piano as an investment and hopes the $25,000 gift spurs others to donate as well, he said.
Bleck expressed the district’s “sincere appreciation for the donation.”
It will be a little more than a year before construction of the new 400-seat auditorium is complete.
Construction is set to begin in September and be done a year later.
In June, the board discussed the feasibility of raising funds for a grand piano for the new auditorium.
Drew Niehans then began researching the cost.
He is the district’s business manager and started playing piano when he was about 6 years old.
If the district decides to buy a grand piano, it will raise the funds to pay for it.
That discussion continued during the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting, which followed its July 24 regular board meeting.
Under the board’s new format, its regular meetings are at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month and are then immediately followed by its committee meetings.
Discussion takes place during committee meetings, with no votes.
During the committee meeting, Niehans told the board he visited a Steinway dealer in Madison.
He played a brand new Steinway, a couple old ones, a Yamaha and a used Steinway.
The used Steinway is a couple years old and has been on lease/rental for the Overture Center for the Arts, in Madison, where some artists hand select it as the piano they want to play, he said.
Niehans said that Steinway played the best of what he played there.
He said it is a $102,000 piano the district could get for around $75,000.
“The easiest and most common way to raise money is to sell a key,” Niehans said.
There are 88 keys on a piano.
Fundraisers in the Madison area typically set the price at $1,000 per key, but Niehans told the dealer Weyauwega-Fremont is a smaller community.
“If we did $500 per key, and we raised about $45,000, they then said they would bring a Steinway artist here to do a concert,” he said.
That would take place after the completion of the new auditorium, with the ticket price set to raise the remaining funds needed to purchase the grand piano.
“It’s not a stretch to think that we can’t raise this amount of money in a short amount of time,” Niehans said.
Other costs associated with purchasing a grand piano include a dolly for moving it and a padded cover for it.
Niehans estimated those costs at about $700 and a couple hundred dollars respectively.
Bleck described a grand piano as a long-term investment and one that would give students the opportunity to play on a superior piece of equipment.
“In theory, it could be a 100-year piece of equipment,” he said.
Bleck also commented on the district’s proximity to Lawrence University, in Appleton, and how a grand piano would open up opportunities to host musicians from outside the community.
He compared it to how the district opens up its athletic facilities for youth sports and tournaments outside of the district’s own offerings.
Last year, when the district presented information about the referedum for its building and improvement program, it often heard people ask how much the auditorium will get used, Niehans said.
“Purchasing something like this increases the possiblities,” he said.
If the district raises funds to buy a grand piano, it would be stored in a secure, humidity-controlled area when not in use.
The district already talked to the architect for the building project about an area for a grand piano.
Board members also weighed in on the idea.
“Do other school districts have Steinways? Is it unusual?” Deb Bartel asked.
Niehans said it is not unusual. “I know Winneconne is getting one,” he said.
In Sandy Smith’s conversations with district residents, she stresses that the cost would be covered entirely by donations.
“I think it’s a pretty neat idea,” Kurt Duxbury said of fundraising for a grand piano. “It would make us unique.”
Bleck said the Music Boosters could help present the idea.
Niehans wants a small group of people to visit Madison and to see and play the used Steinway under consideration.