A Dream Deferred, Realized, and Redefined
When Coastal Carolina University earned recognition as an All-Steinway School in early 2022, Philip Powell, professor in the Department of Music, recognized as it as the fulfillment of a 20-year goal. Ever since the first Steinway was delivered to campus in 2001, Powell had envisioned CCU’s piano program someday reaching this prestigious status and worked to achieve that dream. Now that his long-term goal has been met, however, Powell’s ambitions aren’t satisfied; he’s discovered a whole new dimension of future pathways for students to benefit from music instruction.
The Steinway origin story is part of a musical triplet. In the months leading up to September 2001, Powell recalls, three significant initiatives were gaining momentum: the accreditation process to create an official music program at CCU; the creation of the Edwards building; and acquisition of two Steinway pianos to furnish the building and the program.
“We got the degree proposal and instruments done at the exact same time the building was finishing,” said Powell. “It was so exciting to have the music program and these Steinway pianos and this beautiful building.”
Over the years, the music program grew in multiple dimensions, and the All-Steinway ranking was overshadowed by a variety of programmatic priorities.
“We had to build a marching band, and then we needed to craft a jazz program, and then we recognized a need to create a masters in music technology. It makes a lot of sense now, growing in all these ways, but it put that particular facet on the back burner,” said Powell.
The entrance of Dean Claudia Bornholdt, combined with the backing of President Michael Benson, brought momentum back to the goal.
“Claudia has wanted to close the loop and finish this project,” said Powell, “and when President Benson came on, he said, ‘What can I do to make this happen?’”
It turns out the program was already very close to the All-Steinway qualifications, which include a minimum inventory, ample student and faculty access to pianos, and specialized maintenance of the instruments.
“We’d been so close for so long, but we just needed a couple of strategic moves of our current inventory and one change in our inventory, and Steinway would consider us an All-Steinway School,” said Powell.
Two Spirio-r Steinway pianos were delivered to campus in early 2022 – the middle of the yearlong 20th anniversary celebration of the Edwards College – making CCU the only All-Steinway School in the state and the only South Carolina university to own a Spirio-r. The acquisition promises to bring both prestige and a revolution in music instruction to the Edwards College program. Using cutting-edge technology, the Spirio-r model not only offers concert-hall quality sound, but also has recording and live streaming capabilities that allow players in remote areas to listen to and learn from recorded performances.
“This technology will allow us to give high-quality instruction to places and people who haven’t had any access,” said Powell. “Imagine you’re a teacher in any South Carolina school. The kids can sit at that piano with a video link – not a Zoom link, with its lag and fuzziness, but music that is being played in real time with no lag. It could be transformational.”
For Powell, who has come full circle with the Steinway initiative and been at CCU long enough to remember “driving my Jeep around in the mud field that later became the Edwards building,” the new opportunities bring an unexpected final chapter to his Edwards College legacy.
“I’m in shock that all of this is happening at this point in my career,” said Powell. “It’s these chances to keep growing and redefining and offering new opportunities that’s so exciting. This is part of why I got into teaching and higher education. This is it.”