Couple donates grand piano to Heartland

January 8, 2016

“It’s a reward of persistence.”

That’s what Bethany Kriegsman, dean of liberal arts and social sciences, calls Heartland’s newly donated grand piano.

For several years, the College’s Foundation had a piano fund in hopes of purchasing a quality piano for instruction and performance. Their efforts paid off in an unexpected but welcoming way.

On November 17, 2015, Heartland acquired a grand piano thanks to a donation from Richard and Cathryn Styczynski, a couple from Polo, Illinois. The donation was revealed at Heartland's 2016 All College Best Practices Kick Off on Thursday, January 7, 2016.

The piano, worth more than $13,000, is the largest donation to the Liberal Arts and Social Sciences department.

The Styczynskis learned of Heartland’s need for a piano through their son, Neil. A resident of Bloomington and retired IBM sales rep, Neil has close ties to the College as a life-long learner. He’s taken a variety of classes such as calculus and several foreign languages.

Neil has an additional connection to Heartland through professor of music, Doug Salokar. The two attend Holy Trinity Church in Bloomington where Neil sings in the choir and Salokar serves as the choir director. Through conversation, they discovered Heartland’s desire for a quality piano and the Styczynskis ability to make it a reality.

“My parents were selling the family property and wanted to give the piano a good home,” explained Neil. “My mother taught piano for almost 60 years. She loves music and still plays at the assisted living facility where she lives.”

Before making the move to Normal, Neil wanted to make sure the piano was of the quality Heartland expected. Salokar traveled to Polo to test the piano and was happy with what he heard. At this point, the donation was solidified, and the Fine Arts department at Heartland would finally get what they had been hoping for.

The next step was to transport the piano, which can be costly. Neil didn’t want the College to worry about the expense, so he offered to pay for the delivery. IBM, his former employer of 30 years, matched his donation at 50 percent. Those funds are intended to go toward future music department needs.

“I’m aware of Heartland’s budget and where the state is in terms of coming up with money,” Neil said. “I knew the school has done a lot to keep costs from shifting to students and I thought this would be something I could do to show my appreciation.”

When reflecting on the donation, Kriegsman is rather speechless. “I can’t put into words what this means for us,” she commented. “We’re very excited.”

Prior to the grand piano, Heartland’s inventory consisted of 15 electric keyboards. According to Kriegsman, these will still be used for group lessons and the new piano will be used mainly for instruction, private lessons, student recitals and professional performances, all of which Neil and his parents were hoping would happen.

“I anticipate having a concert piano will attract more performers and students to Heartland,” Neil said. “Especially those who want to pursue music for the long-term.”

Kriegsman hopes to have a professional performer at Heartland as early as next spring, once the piano undergoes tuning and general repairs. As for the Foundation’s music fund, Kriegsman says that money will be used for upkeep.

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Written by: Becky Gropp