An anonymous donation with a big impact

Planned giving
Faculty of Arts
Annika Fabbi, sitting at the piano during a recital.
The constant hours of practice every day by multiple students are demanding on musical instruments. So, when an anonymous estate gift was made to the University of Ottawa’s School of Music, it was the perfect opportunity to replace the school’s inventory of aging pianos, many of them dating back to when it was founded in 1969.

In 2017, under then-director Lori Burns, the School of Music launched its Piano Renewal Campaign, to rejuvenate its stock of studio and practice pianos. The school also wished to acquire a nine-foot concert grand piano for Freiman Hall, in the music building.

In addition to the anonymous bequest, several other donations were made through the campaign. Thanks to these generous donors, the department was able to acquire five grand pianos, seven upright pianos and the concert grand.

Practice instruments are a critical resource for any music program. With portable instruments, students typically have their own or have one on loan. With pianos, it’s a different story. Many students come to uOttawa from far away, live in residence or an apartment, and can’t transport a piano with them. This puts the onus on the University to have a good number of instruments on site and to keep them maintained and accessible for music students at all times.

The Piano Renewal Campaign has made a significant difference for music students, enabling them to develop and perfect their art, which depends in part on the condition of the instruments. Music professor David Jalbert explains that the new pianos facilitate teaching and learning: “If you ask a student to do something in particular, you know it’s possible with these pianos because you can go further. It makes them a better pianist.”

Professor David Jalbert

Annika Fabbi is one such student. In her fourth year of the Bachelor of Music and Piano Performance program, she spends several hours practising each day. “Having these new instruments is incredibly helpful. They save students so much frustration, especially with the newer uprights. Some of the older uprights have keys that stick, or are impossible to tune. Technicians do their best, but there’s only so much they can do,” she says. “Having these new instruments gives us peace of mind and helps us to focus entirely on practising. We can devote ourselves to developing our craft.”

The inventory of pianos is very important not only to current students, but to prospective students as well. When they scout schools, they consider the instruments available to them. 

Annika chose uOttawa for many reasons. The professors were a big draw, but so was access to new instruments, including the grand piano in Freiman Hall, which she played for her audition and now plays regularly. “It’s like science students who tour labs and see the technology, and that everything is in working order. That reflects on the research that they’re doing. It’s the same thing with instruments,” she says.

The Piano Renewal Program has had a significant impact not only on piano students, but also on other music students, instrumentalists, vocalists, faculty members and visiting artists. “It’s such (a major) improvement that the School of Music received thanks to these donations. And that has impacts in all sorts of ways, on everybody who studies and works here, on the general psyche or self-confidence of the school as a whole. It improves our output as a school and the overall quality of the institution,” adds Jalbert.

While anonymous planned gifts may be rare, they nevertheless make a big difference. The Piano Renewal Campaign is a perfect example of the incredible multiplying effects of these generous gifts.

 “I would like to thank the donors and share the huge benefit that their gift has had. It’s really beyond words the impact of these donations on everyone,” says Annika.

Many University of Ottawa alumni have included a gift to the University and its students in their estate plans. To learn more about this type of philanthropic project, please contact us. Thank you for your support!