Durham University gives 18 pianos to community groups after becoming an All-Steinway School


Durham University has given 18 pianos to local community groups across County Durham. The donations follow the completion of a project which saw the University become the largest All-Steinway School in the UK. In April the University welcomed several new pianos – bringing the total across colleges and the Music Department to 61.

Regarding the donations, Nicola Candlish, Senior Manager of Performing Arts at Durham University, said: “We are delighted to be able to donate 18 pianos to groups across County Durham, to contribute to their work to help people in our community through the joy and power of music.  

“Durham University is committed to having a positive impact in the communities we’re part of, and projects like this are just one of the many ways we do this, alongside things like our extensive staff and student volunteering programme, many events and exhibitions and schools and community outreach programmes”. 

Amongst the recipients is RT Projects, a Durham City-based arts and mental health organisation. Set up in 2009 by people who had experienced mental health challenges and who wanted to help others, RT Projects specialises in suicide intervention. 

“Durham University is committed to having a positive impact in the communities we’re part of”

Nicola Candlish

Speaking about the gift, ‘Beano’ from RT Projects, said: “[It] will open up a whole new world to people we work with, enabling them to have a voice they never knew they had.”

Enter CIC, a social enterprise which offers cultural opportunities to the community, has also received a piano.

Andrea Flynn, Director of Enter CIC said: “Affording new musical instruments always provides a significant challenge for community organisations such as ours.  

“Therefore, receiving this piano is a true gift and we look forward to this gift inspiring young people and performers in our community both as audience members and artists.  

“The piano will definitely be well used and I look forward to hearing our hall full of beautiful melody”.  

Other organisations receiving a piano donation include Tees Valley Music Service, Citizen Songwriters and Greenfield Community College.

“[It] will open up a whole new world to people we work with, enabling them to have a voice they never knew they had.”


One piano will also be placed in Durham Railway Station and will be available to all travellers.

The pianos are being donated after the purchase of 61 Steinway pianos, making Durham the largest all-Steinway school nationally. Some elements of the project have been criticised as the cheapest Steinway piano costs around £30,000.

In addition, despite assurances from the University’s website “that all students, regardless of their level or experience, will be able to make use of the beautifully crafted instruments”, recent damage to the most expensive Steinway in the department has led to a change in policy with regard to that specific instrument.

Sent on the 27th of May, an email stipulated that “with the exception of students who are preparing summative performances and of those who have already had permission to play that piano, we ask that nobody plays the Steinway Spirio D of the Concert Room unless agreed in writing by the Head of Performance John Snijders”.

The reason given for this change in policy was because: “our new Steinway pianos are not being treated with the care and attention they deserve. For example, the Steinway Spirio D, the jewel in the crown of our All-Steinway School, has already been scratched multiple times. This is not acceptable, and we are taking action to avoid such accidents happening again”.

However, other Steinway & Sons pianos remain available for use by all.

Image: Durham University

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