Max Denning

Eastern Oregon University Music Professor Peter Wordelman has a unique comparison for the Fazioli grand piano that the university has been raising money to purchase for almost a year.

“It’s a major upgrade,” he said. “It’s basically like the Ferrari of Italian pianos.”

The price tag is also comparable: 2018 Ferraris start at approximately $215,000, and EOU is set to raise $150,000 to purchase the Fazioli. The university’s fundraising efforts were kickstarted by the Oregon Agriculture Foundation, which was established by Jean and Glen McKenzie in 1992. Glen graduated from what was then the Eastern Oregon Normal School in 1936, and he served as a trustee of the EOU Foundation.

In December 2017, fundraising began when the OAF offered the university a $40,000 matching grant, meaning the foundation would match donations made to the grand piano campaign up to $40,000. In just a few months, the university had raised $40,000. So the OAF offered an additional matching grant of $25,000. By October, the university had raised the $25,000.

As of today, the university had raised $135,626. Wordelman said approximately 130 people have donated to the campaign.

With the purchase of the piano and McKenzie Theatre scheduled to undergo a $5.5 million renovation, Wordelman said the EOU theatre will become the grandest facility in the region.

“We now have a premier concert instrument,” he said. “One of our overall goals is to make sure that McKenzie Theatre is the best equipped theatre in our 12-county region. That should be our role as a university and as educators.”

Daniel Durrell, a junior music major at EOU, played the piano in an upper-division piano course.

“The clarity from that piano is way different from the (previous grand piano),” the Yamhill native said. “You can stand all the way in the back (of McKenzie Theatre) and hear just a pedal tone compared to the other one where it can kind of blur together. I got the chance to play it, and it’s extremely clear.”

Durrell also noted the action of the piano — the responsiveness of the keys — was particularly impressive.

He said the purchase of the piano will be a significant element of his experience at EOU.

“There are several of us who are just focusing on piano as our music, and it feels like we are getting a lot of personal attention and being especially cared for,” Durrell said. “It’s great to feel like you’re being fed all these new resources and materials. Playing on a new piano makes a world of difference.”

The piano will publicly debut at The Observer’s 27th annual Holiday Music Festival on Dec. 1 and 2 at Eastern Oregon University’s McKenzie Theatre. The Saturday show takes place at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday matinee begins at 3 p.m.

Wordelman, who planned the show, said the festival will begin with a performance on the piano and will end with a piano duet. The piano will also be used by a number of groups performing for the concert.