A ‘grand’ day

Steinways delivered to Clayton Center for the Arts

Fred and Jane Tolhurst gave birth to twins on Monday -- two huge pianos that had been in their hearts for months.

The couple watched as two Steinway grand pianos were unveiled to members of the organization they founded to solicit funds to equip the new Clayton Center for the Arts with instruments.

“I am overwhelmed,” said Jane Tolhurst. “I feel like it’s delivery day, and I’m going to have twins.”

Addressing the members of the Grand Players Society, Jane continued, “If it had not been for you all, this would not have happened. Our gratitude knows no bounds. We think you are grand. It was just an idea, and you made it happen.”

Fred Tolhurst said that when his wife told him late last year they needed to organize an effort to raise money to buy two brand new Steinway pianos for the soon-to-be-completed center, he didn’t know what to think.

“I sort of thought my wife is nutty. She said, ‘We need to raise $210,000 by the end of the year,’ and I said, ‘You are nuts.’ What made it happen was the ripple effect,” he said. “Sen. Alexander, what an unbelievable stroke of generosity in donating one entire piano. After that, I thought, maybe we could do this. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.”

Sen. Alexander committed $105,000, the purchase price of one piano. Because he donated that amount, the senator’s family name will adorn the Steinway in the main hall. The Grand Players Society members raised the additional funds to purchase the second piano. On Monday, The Alexander piano was unveiled in the main performance hall, and the second was unveiled in the recital hall.

In the recital hall, members of the Grand Players Society got to sign the bottom of the piano before famed Russian pianist Alexander Ghindin, in town for the Evelyn Miller Young Pianist Series in Knoxville, performed.

“The availability of the arts that Maryville College has provided over the years has been absolutely fabulous. I know music has always been an important part of my life and my husband’s life,” said Jan Proffitt, wife of the late Jack Proffitt.

Dwain and Jan Pesterfield donated to the help purchase the Steinway grands. “I have been involved with church music for 32 years at First Methodist Church of Maryville. Music has been an important part of our lives,” Dwain Pesterfield said.

Joe and Jane Andrews donated to the effort. “When Jan and Fred asked us to consider this, it was a real easy thing to support,” said Jane Andrews.

Jane Andrews said it was exciting to see how the Grand Players Society came together rather quickly and accomplished its goal. “I credit Fred and Jane for having the foresight to put this together,” Andrews said. “It was a logical way for us to participate.”

The Tolhursts surprised the donors with souvenirs from Steinway and a little something from themselves. “We’re going to give back your ‘money,’” she said, holding up a 100 Grand candy bar from the gift bags she had prepared for each of the donors. She then held up small pieces of the veneer cut from the wood used to make the pianos. “And you’re going to have a piece of a Steinway grand.”

Fred Tolhurst reminded the donors of their accomplishment after they enjoyed a brief performance by Alexander Ghindin. “Everyone in this hall, you bought this baby,” Tolhurst said. “You should feel ownership.”

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