Unique Spirio piano expands educational opportunities for students


ITheronBrown1.jpgThanks to the generosity of University of Akron (UA) honorary alumna and longtime benefactor Kathy Coleman, the UA School of Music students and faculty members will now have access to one of the most unique musical instruments in the world, expanding performance and education opportunities for generations to come.

Coleman has pledged $250,000 for the purchase of a new Steinway & Sons Spirio | r Model D piano, which is considered the world’s finest high-resolution player piano. The Spirio, which is a concert grand-sized instrument, will be used in the School of Music’s Guzzetta Hall, where UA musicians will create, rehearse and perform using its capabilities. The piano arrived on campus in January and faculty recently underwent specialized training from representatives of Steinway Piano Gallery, based in Boston Heights, Ohio.

Spirio was introduced by Steinway & Sons in 2015, and Spirio | r, which was introduced in 2019, uses an iPad app for live-performance capture and play-back. This feature is valuable for students and faculty to be able to compose, rehearse, perform, record, edit and share their music all over the world. The technology also gives users access to a library of thousands of pre-recorded piano works by some of the greatest living and legendary pianists.


Donor Kathy Coleman sits at the new Spiro piano.

“This is a piano that will serve our students and faculty for the next 100 years,” said UA School of Music Director Marc Reed. “It’s in our primary ensemble space, where our students, faculty and guest musicians give the majority of their performances, so everybody will have access to it. There are endless possibilities, and I am very excited to see how the faculty and students utilize it.”

The Spirio will benefit not only piano students and faculty, but any instrumentalist who performs with piano accompaniment. An accompanist can record their part in advance and the instrumentalist can play it back whenever they want to rehearse or perform, without a need for the accompanist to be there in person.

Composition students and faculty will also find a lot of benefit to the Spirio. The technology allows composers to record as they play, and the composer can see the musical notations on the iPad screen and use a stylus to make changes in the moment.

Using the Spirio app, students will be able to record a performance and share the recording for a number of purposes, including entering competitions or for auditions. The recording can be played back on a computer and also be played through another Spirio.

The Spirio uses proprietary software to measure hammer velocity and proportional pedaling for both the damper pedal and soft pedal, which means any playing style or performance can be replicated on the instrument. The app has more than 4,500 pre-recorded classical, jazz and pop works by many of the world’s finest pianists such as Lang Lang, and legendary performers like George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Glenn Gould. Reed is eager for students to have the opportunity for students to observe the Spirio play the works of these towering figures.

“It’s not just about playing the notes. There are a lot of nuances to playing the piano, how you strike the key and the way you do so,” Reed said. “This piano, because it was built from its inception as a Spirio, replicates this exactly. You can watch how other pianists played, even though they’ve been gone for decades. To watch the keystroke without having them strike the key is incredible. It’s almost more beneficial than having someone play because you can see what the keystroke looked like without having their hands there.”

The technology also allows performances on a Spirio to be cast to other Spirios in real time, which means students and faculty will be able to sit in Guzzetta Recital Hall to hear some of the finest pianists of our time play live from anywhere in the world.

The Spirio can be played as a concert grand without the technology. Steinway & Sons, however, does not retrofit its non-Spirio pianos to add the technology. The app is only available on iPad.

Coleman’s gift, and the Spirio acquisition, are part of the University’s ongoing campaign to grow its fleet of Steinway & Sons pianos and achieve the coveted All-Steinway School designation. She joined UA students, faculty and other University representatives on a December 2023 trip to New York City for a tour of the Steinway & Sons factory and the opportunity to hear the Spirio during a recital.

Ted and Theresa Good, and Catherine Brulport, the leadership team at the Steinway Piano Gallery Cleveland, have been instrumental in UA’s effort to achieve the All-Steinway School designation and helped coordinate the New York City trip.

“Watching the future of the arts in our community come together, led by The University of Akron, is tremendously exciting,” Brulport said. “The impact that this first Steinway Spirio [at UA] will have on the faculty and students will be extensive and will grow exponentially with the All-Steinway designation. We are so grateful to the university donors who share in this commitment to Akron, students, educators and the arts.”

Coleman is an active community volunteer and currently sits on the Board of Directors of Piano Cleveland, an organization that promotes the future of piano music and educational programs throughout the region. She has also been an active supporter of the University and previously funded the Les and Kathy Coleman Common, a beautiful centerpiece of the UA campus. Her late husband, Dr. Lester E. Coleman, was a UA alumnus.

“I’m very supportive of this effort and eager to see how this piano will be used and how it will benefit the University,” Coleman said. “Once the community sees how valuable this piano is, I think that may spark other people to consider giving a gift to help meet UA’s goal of putting more Steinway & Sons pianos on campus.”

UA hosted a celebratory recital on Tuesday, March 5, to thank Coleman for her gift. UA students, faculty and Yaron Kohlberg, president of Piano Cleveland performed during the recital.

Media contact: Cristine Boyd, cboyd@uakron.edu, 330-972-6476