North Central College students benefit from gift of Shigeru Kawai piano

Jun 25, 2014

North Central College student vocalists and musicians are benefitting from the gift of a Shigeru Kawai piano, one of the world’s most exquisite instruments.

The College acquired the SK-EX model concert grand piano in fall 2013 through the generosity of alumna Jane Koten ’55. Thirteen students performed at a dedication recital in Koten Chapel on June 7, including pianists who played the instrument and vocalists and other musicians who were accompanied by a faculty member performing on the piano.

“That’s why we do things like this (acquire world-class instruments), for our current and future students,” said Barbara Shiffler ’71 Vanderwall, the College’s coordinator of piano studies.

The piano became available for sale last year through PianoForte Chicago, one of the city’s premier piano stores and an official dealer of Kawai pianos. The College learned of the availability through David Graham, a renowned piano technician who has served as North Central’s piano tech since 2008 and who works at PianoForte.

“This is a legacy instrument whose history is still being written,” Graham said.

Koichi Kawai founded the piano company in Japan in 1927. When he died in 1955, his son Shigeru became company president. Each instrument in Kawai’s EX concert grand series is handcrafted by a team of master piano artisans and bears the full name of Shigeru Kawai—an honor in Japan that is rarely seen except by makers of samurai swords.

“Within a year of purchase an artisan from the factory in Japan will visit each location—in this case Koten Chapel—to tune the piano and adjust the action,” Graham said. “Only then is their responsibility complete.”

Also, the name of every Shigeru piano owner since inception is respectfully enshrined in the Shigeru Kawai “Wall of Honor” in Hamamatsu, Japan.

Jane Koten has served as president of the Alumni Association at North Central College and was a generous contributor to the renovation of Kiekhofer Hall and Koten Chapel, named for her parents, Roy Y. ’20 and Margaret Neerman ’26 Koten.

She attended the June 7 dedication recital with the family of her late brother John A. “Jack” Koten ’51. Jack’s wife Catherine, daughter Sarah and son Mark were present, as was Tina St. Angelo, daughter of the late Rev. George St. Angelo ’43, the College’s first chaplain.

As one of his final acts just weeks before retiring after 20 years as College chaplain, the Rev. Lynn Pries ’67 delivered a prayer of dedication at the recital.

“We have a very strong music program, and this chapel is a special place,” Pries told the nearly 100 students, alumni, family members and others in attendance. “There are a great many important things that happen in this sanctuary.”