University of Northern Colorado Faculty prepares piano students for success

As seen in the Fall 2018 edition of the Boston Chronicle


GREELEY, CO – What could the Greeley Stampede, one of the world’s most famous rodeos, possibly have in common with the University of Northern Colorado’s School of Music? Both have a penchant for attracting talented individuals to the high plains of the Rocky Mountains – albeit in different areas of expertise – from all over the globe.

Situated about an hour’s drive north of Denver, Greeley may be one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets. With an attractive cost of living, abundant green spaces and free parking, the town may be just what its namesake newspaper editor Horace Greeley ordered when he urged people to “go west.”

“For more than 100 years, the School of Music at UNC has sought the highest quality faculty to serve our students,” said Director Michael Alexander. “We seek diverse perspectives and recruit internationally in all our faculty searches. The faculty enjoys the dedication of our students, a positive atmosphere, and the opportunity to work with more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students across a wide variety of music majors.”

Steinway Artist Dr. Lei Weng heads the Keyboard Area. In demand at prestigious global venues and competitions since his sold-out debut at Carnegie Hall, he discovered something extraordinary at UNC. “I was attracted by the universally recognized music program with its distinguished faculty and highly-regarded research programs in performance and academics. What was instantly noticeable was the wonderful energy and collegiality among faculty and students,” he said.

A native of China, Dr. Weng received his bachelor’s degree from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and advanced degrees in piano performance from University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, both All-Steinway Schools.

Fellow piano faculty members are Justin Krawitz, Assistant Professor of Music, from South Africa; Dana Landry, Director of Jazz Studies who came to the program from All-Steinway Middle Tennessee State University; Deborah Throgmorton, Instructor of Harpsichord, from Greeley; Willem Van Schalkwyk, Piano and Opera Vocal Coach from Namibia; and Adam Piotr Zukiewicz, Assistant Professor of Music, from Poland.

“In this fast-changing and internationalized musical world, I believe our students must have the knowledge and awareness of different perspectives to prepare themselves for careers in a diverse musical landscape,” Dr. Weng said. “Each one of the full-time piano faculty in our piano area comes from a different country and background. This is a tremendous and rare asset, in that they bring a vast array of cultural, linguistic and musical background and knowledge to share with our students. I think this is one of the most exciting and attractive things to students in and out of the classroom.”

Some of Dr. Weng’s students continued studies at the Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, Peabody Institute of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, the New England Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music.

“As much as I enjoy hearing of success in winning competitions, pursuing further studies or securing working positions, I am equally proud of my students’ progress and success in my daily teaching life, when I witness many of them overcome their shortcomings and fears to achieve their fullest potential,” he said. “Nothing makes me prouder than to see students transform into higher levels of music making that even they and myself could not have imagined.”

At UNC, teaching does not end when music in the classroom stops.

Members of the piano faculty help students find the right career path, acquire the necessary skills, prepare professional portfolios and productively network in the music world. Dr. Weng said there are ample opportunities outside of school through music festivals and competitions, and students have obtained administrative, teaching and performance positions in music organizations and professional orchestras. 

“All of our faculty have active professional careers and keep their pulse on how students are getting jobs,” added Dr. Alexander. “We bring industry leaders to our school each month to talk about the current status of the music world and where opportunities exist.”

The school has made strategic acquisitions of six Steinway Model B grand pianos and most recently, 11 Boston UP-118S uprights for the piano teaching studios. Charles Hansen, Associate Director of the School of Music, said UNC is “thrilled with the new instruments that will make a difference for our students.”

Dr. Alexander noted that price, durability and exceptional service from Schmitt Music in Denver – in particular the efforts of General Manager Barry Damerell – were major factors in the selection of the Steinway-designed Boston pianos.

“UNC is a unique place for a lot of special reasons, and I really enjoy working with them to ensure that they have the right instruments so students can reach their highest potential,” Damerell said.

the piano with Steinway DNA

Whether dazzling at the concert hall, woodshedding in the practice room, or exploring the joy of music at home, the Steinway-designed Boston brings the genuine world-class tone and responsiveness within reach.

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