Southeast Among Inaugural Class Named Yamaha Institution of Excellence


Southeast Missouri State University is among the inaugural class of elite institutions across the globe to be named a “Yamaha Institution of Excellence.”

Kirk Davis, Yamaha Corporation of America’s Institutional Solutions Group manager, previewed the designation Oct. 13 at the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra’s season opener.

“We are extremely honored to receive this distinction from Yamaha,” said Southeast President Dr. Carlos Vargas. “I would like to thank Yamaha for recognizing our Holland College of Arts and Media as a premier destination for artistic excellence. This designation benchmarks Southeast among the world’s finest performing arts institutions and as a premier location to practice and perform on the world’s finest acoustic and expressive instruments.”

The Yamaha designation recognizes extraordinary commitment to innovation in study of the music, and is awarded to institutions demonstrating dedication to providing unique and challenging experiences to their music students through diversity of thought and curriculum, exposure to a wider variety of voices and opportunities and an emphasis on preparing students for the modern world of music.

Kirk Davis (left), Yamaha Corporation of America’s Institutional Solutions Group manager, and Southeast President Dr. Carlos Vargas (right) previewed the designation Oct. 13 at the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra’s season opener.

“In our time working with Southeast, we have been continually awed by the scope of their ambition and drive to provide a superior experience for their music students,” said Davis. “Their thoughtful, careful stewardship of investment in the program to ensure its future relevance and competitiveness is outstanding.”

Davis said Southeast’s focus on institutional excellence elevated it to the inaugural group of institutions to receive the Yamaha Institution of Excellence designation effective Nov. 1.  The designation will provide special opportunities to Southeast and other institutions that will benefit both the faculty and students.

“We are proudly continuing to invest in the arts to give our students the tools they need to fine-tune their musical talents,” said Rhonda Weller-Stilson, dean of the Holland College. “This designation offers us the opportunity to foray into music technology and innovation, and we could not be more thrilled to offer these opportunities to our students.”

Forty new Yamaha pianos recently arrived at Southeast’s River Campus, home of the Holland College, during the first phase of a strategic initiative to span 10 years. Over the next decade, another 40 new Yamaha pianos will find a home at the River Campus, bringing the total acquisition to 80 new pianos.

The instruments are now in practice rooms, classrooms and faculty offices in the River Campus Seminary Building, the Kenneth and Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center, performance spaces in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall and the Robert F. and Gertrude L. Shuck Music Recital Hall, and in Southeast main campus residence halls.

The acquisition ushers in a significant paradigm shift as the Holland College infuses technology into Southeast’s music and theatre and dance programs, and shifts their trajectory in the direction these industries are moving, Southeast Department of Music Chair Dr. Kevin Hampton said.

“Marrying smart devices to music study and performance with digital keyboard instruments meets students where they are now,” he said, and “enhances traditional music study while keeping students at the forefront of how music is created and disseminated. Students are eager to explore how smart devices can enhance their creative abilities and the music they want to produce. Providing students access to the best technological resources and traditional keyboard instruments strengthens our programs and allows students to fully explore their intellectual and creative ideas.”

Yamaha has been at the forefront of keyboard technological innovation for many decades, connecting the best of traditional piano acoustics and mechanics with technology.

“Having these instruments will give students a distinct advantage beyond graduation because they will be well-versed in how they can incorporate technology to create new or derivative music.”

The new Yamaha pianos will enhance the University’s current piano inventory, which includes both Yamaha and Steinway instruments, University officials said, and Lacefield Music of St. Louis will service and maintain the instruments.

Among the 40 are:

  • Two nine-foot concert grand pianos
  • A Yamaha Disklavier
  • 17  technology” Yamaha NU1XPE uprights with hybrid keyboards
  • 10 studio and classroom Yamaha C1XPE and Yamaha C3XPE grands;
  • Four Yamaha N1X and Yamaha N2 Hybrid “AvantGrand” keyboards for studio and practice rooms; and
  • Six Yamaha P22MSE 45-inch acoustic uprights for small practice rooms and studios.

The Disklavier is a traditional concert grand piano with Bluetooth compatibility and USB connectivity for pairing smart devices so performances can be streamed or received from anywhere and played immediately, remotely. It also enables web-based interactive concerts and teaching demonstrations.

The technology pianos in practice rooms and classrooms feature traditional key mechanisms and electronic acoustics; advanced connectivity options; USB for storage and hosting audio; Bluetooth for audio streaming and app compatibility; and optical sensors, acoustic control systems and high definition recording formats for connecting electrical devices.

The $840,000 initiative is funded by the Southeast Missouri University Foundation with leadership gifts from the Southeast Missouri Symphony Society and the Southeast Missouri Music Academy, and the Margaret Woods Allen Piano Endowment; University funds designated for music and the River Campus; and from Academic Affairs. The balance will be funded over the next five years through fundraising efforts and other University commitments.

“Our River Campus has distinguished itself as the only campus in Missouri dedicated solely to art, dance, music and theatre, and thanks to Yamaha, we expect these pianos to very positively impact our recruitment of the world’s finest musicians — both students and faculty,” Vargas said.

Dr. Kenn Stilson, chair of The Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance, said,

“This initiative elevates the River Campus to another level and is a very attractive incentive for prospective students, knowing they’ll work with first-class, high-tech instruments.”

He said the pianos will be both a significant teaching tool a tremendous asset in musical productions. With a laptop, they can respond to a performer’s playing, creating live, improvised performance compositions and be linked to create digital art or mirror a dancer’s movements.

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