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Where There's a Will, There's a Steinway

There are few instruments as diverse in texture and tone as the piano. Its keys can be massaged, arpeggioed, sustained or pounded like a jackhammer. It accompanies smoky-voiced jazz singers, anchors symphony orchestras and even appears in the occasional modern-rock hit.

“Other instruments can sound lovely,” says John Hartog ’74, “but I think the piano is the only one that always sounds complete.”

An attorney who lives in Oakland, Calif., Hartog was recently inspired to pledge $125,000 to endow the John A. Hartog Piano Replacement Fund, which will help to cover the costs of replacing some of the Music Department’s 44 Steinway pianos. Hartog also provided funds last year for the purchase of a new Steinway piano.

“I am a big believer that the secret to a successful liberal arts education is to spend time in every building on campus,” says Hartog, who participated in choir, the newspaper, student government, intramural sports and more at Pomona. “The goal of this gift is to give students the opportunity to indulge in something that I myself found so enjoyable.”

Hartog grew up in a household that overflowed with music. His mother, a classical pianist, required that each of her children play two instruments: he played piano through middle school and trumpet through college. “My sisters were string players, and I thought the trumpet would be a good way to make my presence felt,” he says with a laugh. “And also to aggravate them.”

Years after practicing his own piano scales as a child, Hartog’s family legacy has endured through his daughter Lea, herself an ’07 grad.

“Creating this fund was meant to honor both my mother’s memory and Lea’s love of piano,” he says. “It just seemed to have a nice symmetry to it.”

Genevieve Lee, Everett S. Olive Professor of Music, says that many of the College’s Steinways are more than 40 years old--far beyond the ideal age for pianos that are used eight hours a day. The first new piano was wheeled into Lee’s studio this past fall.

“The quality of the instrument makes a big difference when you’re practicing and teaching,” Lee says. “Many of these pianos have worn-out parts and are beyond repair--replacing even one allows us to reshuffle and creates a lasting effect across campus.”

Hartog’s gift fits in with Pomona’s Daring Minds arts initiative, which seeks to create a more arts-oriented campus culture.

“One of the things that has most impressed me about President Oxtoby is his commitment to the arts,” says Hartog. “It’s exciting that a scientist recognizes that the fine arts are such a wonderful way to learn and be creative.”