Saturday, June 13, 2009

Marina Lomazov becomes a Steinway artist - and gets the piano to go with the title

Wrapping up the Southeastern Piano Festival Saturday night, director Marina Lomazov noted that Rice Music House was having a piano sale in the music school basement.
"I'm thinking of going down there and getting one myself," she said.
Little did she know.
After the winning students played someone had a gift for Lomazov: a Steinway grand piano. And maybe more important, certification as a Steinway Artist.
The secret plan to purchase a Steinway for Lomazov, who is on the USC music faculty, was hatched three years ago.
The idea originated with Robert Schaeffer, sales manager of Rice Music House, and he took it to Ralph Rynes, a Columbia doctor, music fan and big fan of Lomazov since she moved here in 2002.
“I really wasn’t familiar with the artists program, but it sounded like a good idea,” Rynes said. He recruited Alan Conway (at right showing some paperwork to the pianist), another Lomazov fan, to help raise the $60,000 needed. The first $30,000 came in quickly, the second half took a while. They also realized that Lomazov and her husband the pianist Joseph Rackers would have to pay taxes on the gift so that added some change to the bill.
Getting the Steinway certification usually involves the artists filling out various forms and answering questions, but Rackers was able to do most of that.
“It was very unusual and the people at Steinway worked with us on it,” said Jyotindra M. Parekh, owner of Rice Music House.
Because of her certification as a Steinway Artist (there are about 1,500 worldwide) this is about more getting a piano. Rackers, also a music school faculty member, will be eligible for certification after another year or so of doing concerts.That will make them one of only two husband-and-wife Steinway Artist duos. The basic criteria for being named a Steinway artist is the musician must have a solid record of quality and quantity concertizing.
And of course they have to own a Steinway.
“It really adds credibility to Columbia to have Steinway artists here,” Conway said.
Steinway Artists are a diverse lot, ranging from pop songster Billy Joel to French pianist classical pianist and Spoleto Festival regular Jean-Yves Thibaudet to classical phenom Lang Lang to jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall.
A native of Ukraine, Lomazov studied at the Kiev Conservatory before her family emigrated to the United States in 1990. She earned advanced degrees from the Juilliard School and the Eastman School of Music and has performed throughout the United States, Japan, France, Austria, Germany and Ukraine. For the past two years she has played at the Keys to the Future festival for new piano music in New York. She and her husband also perform together as the Lomazov/Rackers Duo.
The piano the duo are getting was built in 1976 and was owned locally. During the past several months it has been refurbished.
“Our tech guys has been working on it day and night,” Parekh said.
It will be ready in about two weeks.
Lomazov mostly held back the tears, although her supporters and students didn't, but otherwise was almost at a loss for words.

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