Founded in 1994, Steinway SocietyThe Bay Area is a non-profit volunteer-based presenting organization. Its mission: “To promote excellence in piano performance and music education in the Bay Area.” The organization is now recognized as one of the gems in the cultural life of San Jose and the south Bay Area by offering a unique set of piano recitals in an intimate setting. In addition to presenting a piano series, the organization has an educational arm that reaches out to assist young pianists in need with financial aid, provides scholarships to various music programs, and produces a program in collaboration with Arts Express called “History of Piano Music in America.”
Le Petit Trianon Theatre
The newly renovated Le Petit Trianon Theatre’s 340 seat hall is acoustically without rival. Every seat in the house provides an up-close and personal experience of these beautiful recital performances. Complementing the splendid acoustics is the exquisite tone of the hall’s Steinway D concert grand; many of our featured artists have praised its quality and are eager to return. Additionally, the completion of the new San Jose City Hall and Rotunda one-half block away has prompted the renovation of the area surrounding the theatre. Among the many improvements is the expansion of North Fifth Street into a wide, tree-lined promenade with decorative sculptures, new street lamps, and a new parking structure.
Steinway Society’s Beginnings in the San Francisco Bay Area
In the summer of 1994 longtime friends and San Jose residents David Dumont and Billye Erickson saw an article in the magazine “Lyra” put out by Steinway & Sons of New York that caught their attention. The article featured a post-concert reception sponsored by the Atlanta Steinway Society. They both had the same immediate response to the article: “Where is the Steinway Society in the San Francisco Bay Area, and how can we participate?” After a bit of research, they learned that the Bay Area did not yet have such an organization in fact, there was not yet another one on the West Coast. Seeing the potential as well a need for a Northern California organization they started a conversation that was the genesis of the present Steinway Society The Bay Area.
The two friends brought just the right mix to their new project: David’s own musical background, including studies at the Boston Conservatory, his many years as a professional pianist, and his passion for bringing people, pianos, and good music together, coupled with Billye’s business background, community activism, and personal commitment to philanthropy. Their conversations about bringing world-class pianists to the Peninsula and South Bay at prices affordable to piano enthusiasts continued for several months. They also discussed their vision of recreating opportunities for in-home recitals reminiscent of the salon concerts of days-gone-by, and for supporting young, developing pianists and music education in general. They formulated a working outline which included the important component of obtaining local sponsorships and developing private donors to help offset the cost of concerts to music lovers as well as to fund other education-related projects.
They realized immediately that in order to attract the high-caliber pianists they hoped to bring to the area, the first priority was to gain access to a fine instrument for these discriminating performers. They set off for Steinway Hall New York City to select an instrument worthy of their plans. After finding the “perfect” Steinway Model B, they spoke of their idea of starting the first West Coast Steinway Society with Peter Goodrich, Director of Concert Artists for Steinway, who enthusiastically supported their mission.
Henry Z Steinway, the great grandson of the founder, graciously consented to sign the plate of their just-purchased instrument. This tradition has been continued, and today one can see the signatures of many of the well-known artists who have performed on this piano, which has its home in San Jose’s historic Petite Trianon Theatre, owned by impresario Keith Watt.
In the summer of 1995 David and Billye got together with three other like-minded music supporters, Marina Gusak Grin, Gerri Alexander, and Emilia Shvarts to begin planning Steinway Society The Bay Area’s first event, the co-sponsorship of a San Jose Symphony concert featuring pianist Ivan Moravic. This first meeting led to many more, as well as to the official formation of a Board of Directors that now includes music lovers from many walks of life, who bring diverse insights and talents to the Society. Since then, over the years many formal concerts at the Trianon and other venues have taken place, as well as numerous intimate in-home recitals in private residences around the Bay Area. Countless young musicians and music programs have benefited by the financial support Steinway Society provides through local music competitions, concerts, and fundraisers.
Since then, Billye retired and moved out of the Bay Area, and continues to make a difference in the musical life of her community. David forwarded their vision when, in 2001, he moved to Bellevue Washington for a short time and started the Puget Sound Steinway Society. Since returning to San Jose, David has resumed his involvement with the Society as an active board member and fundraiser. Now, going in its landmark 17th year, Steinway Society The Bay Area has established a solid foundation, both financially and in terms of the talents and commitment of the present Board of Directors, assuring that piano lovers of all ages in the Bay Area will have access to unique musical experiences for many years to come.