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Slideshow: New Piano Arrives for St. Cecilia Hall!

Slideshow: New Piano Arrives for St. Cecilia Hall!

Posted: January 12, 2018

On Thursday morning a long-anticipated delivery made its way to the campus of Thomas Aquinas College: a beautiful grand piano, arriving just in time for the inaugural concert of the College’s new lecture and concert building, St. Cecilia Hall. The piano is the gift of two generous parents, Cathy and Charles Mires, whose daughter, Nina, came to the College as a freshman in 2006 and graduated in 2010.

  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall
  • Piano Delivery 2018
    Slideshow: Arrival of New Piano for St. Cecilia Hall

“We saw several student concerts over those years and always enjoyed them,” recalls Mr. Mires. “We admired the devotion of the choir director, Dan Grimm (’76), and the musical experiences he would create, drawing on what seemed an unusually high percentage of students who have extremely high musical abilities of one form or another.”

There was just one shortcoming in these productions — the performance space.

For the better part of four decades, the College’s dining hall, St. Joseph Commons, has served as a makeshift concert facility, but its acoustics are poor, and musicians must compete with the hum of refrigerators and ice machines emanating from the food-service area. So the Mires were delighted when they learned that the Fritz B. Burns Foundation had granted the College funding for the new lecture and concert building, which will open next month.

The news got them thinking about ways they could help. “Philosophically, Cathy and I are more than happy to support an institution generally, but we lean toward targeted giving opportunities,” says Mr. Mires, a retired executive at Franklin Street Partners, an asset-management firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The couple has donated regularly to the College over the years and contributed significantly to the construction of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. “When we see something very specific that we can give to, that resonates with us.”

St. Cecilia Hall afforded just such an occasion. With its concert-hall acoustics, theatrical lighting, and 468-person stadium seating, the building offers an ideal setting for the sorts of performances that the Mires enjoyed when Nina was a student. A family of recreational pianists — Mr. and Mrs. Mires both took lessons as children, as did Nina and her two brothers — the Mires immediately thought of equipping the hall with a grand piano worthy of the building’s namesake, St. Cecilia, the patroness of music.

“Something just sort of clicked,” says Mr. Mires. “For that kind of performance space, you need a very good piano, one that can fill the hall with sound, but not overwhelm it. You need an instrument that will support not only the musical activities of students and faculty, but which can also be available should the College host any outside musicians to provide entertainment to the community.”

He thus contacted Robert Bagdazian, coordinator of the Thomas Aquinas College Parents’ Association, with an offer to purchase a piano for St. Cecilia Hall. “Naturally, I was thrilled,” says Mr. Bagdazian. “What struck me was not only the Mires’ generosity, but the thoughtfulness that lay behind it. It was yet another example of how the parents of our students and alumni are attentive to the needs of the College, in much the same way that they are to the needs of their children. They seem to look for ways to support the school, even without being asked. It is humbling to witness.”

Mr. Mires then made it his mission to find the perfect piano, contacting retailers around the country, before settling on one close to his home in Raleigh. “It just so happens that there was a great opportunity right here in my backyard. It was the right quality of instrument, the right size, and in the right price range,” he says.

What he found was a 7-foot, 6-inch Schimmel K230 Konzert Tradition grand piano, a model renowned for its tone clarity and precision, designed for use in small concert halls, and beloved by accompanists. He consulted with Mr. Grimm, the choir director, as well as Mr. Grimm’s brother, Stephen (’75), who is the artistic director of Pasadena Pro Musica. Both agreed that the instrument would well suit the new building. “The Schimmel is an esteemed make of piano, which will be a joy for our pianists to play and for our audiences to hear,” says Dan Grimm. “I am very excited that, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Mires, the College will have a top-quality concert grand for performance in St. Cecilia Hall.”

With the building nearing completion, the piano recently made the trip across country, arriving on campus Thursday morning. For the time being, however, it remains in a storage space until the main stage is ready. The piano will have its debut at St. Cecilia Hall’s inaugural concert in February.