Mary Watson, a Juneau pianist, was first inspired to raise money for a new piano in the new Juneau Arts and Culture Center when Juneau Jazz and Classics brought concert pianist Awadagin Pratt to town two years ago.
“Because the piano at the JACC was so bad he barely played it at all and when he did it was very soft,” Watson wrote in an email.
When she heard about the plans for the new JACC building she decided to fundraise $10,000 to purchase a new piano. Fellow musicians Jon Hays, Kyle Farley-Robinson, Doug Smith and Sue Kazama all jumped on board Watson’s idea for a piano series five concerts by five local pianists. That soon grew to six concerts and seven pianists when Mei Xue and Judith Mitchell joined in. All together, the concerts have raised $13,300. In addition, Juneau resident Ron Maas offered $10,000 to the cause.
Watson traveled to Portland and Medford, Oregon to check out piano options. Dr. Alexander Tutunov, a pianist living in Oregon, helped her in her search for the best piano in their budget. With the help of both piano technician Devin Zimmer and Tutunov, they were able to negotiate to buy a six foot ten inch Schimmel with a “powerful but silky sound.” The Schimmel retails at $49,000 but, because it’ll be used in a community performance hall, they were able to buy it for $25,000.
So far the six concerts have raised $23,300. Watson plans one more concert on the new piano, once it arrives, to make up the difference.