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A Piano Novice Strikes Just the Right Chord

Dewberry's fingers tickle the ivories during his piano lessons, helping him achieve a lifelong goal of learning to play.
Dewberry's fingers tickle the ivories during his piano lessons, helping him achieve a lifelong goal of learning to play. "Tickled to death" is how the university benefactor and Northern Virginia businessman describes himself after helping to raise money to purchase the Steinways. (Susan Biddle - Twp)

The first nine were delivered last month, each marked with a small golden plaque designed by Dewberry -- down to the font -- and bearing Monson's name and the name of each donor. Monson did not tell Dewberry they had arrived. She let him find out when he showed up for a lesson.

"It actually brings tears to my eyes" to remember, Monson said. "It was just one of those beautiful, beautiful moments. He was just speechless. I said, 'Which one would you like to have the lesson on today?' "

GMU's piano majors -- there are 40 of them -- seem even more overjoyed.

On a recent morning, senior Jorge Luis Martinez Padron, 24, sat on the padded black bench at one of the new Steinways and wrapped up the final, dramatic notes of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. He grew up poor in Cuba, where, he jokes, he learned to play on pianos that lacked keys and strings.

"The piece has many colors that you can definitely bring out on this piano," he said. "This is like a Lamborghini -- it responds fast."

For his part, Dewberry said playing a Steinway is like driving a Rolls-Royce.

Dewberry still serves as chairman of his company and said he has no plans to retire. He is still working on his list, plotting the purchase of a houseboat so he and Reva can float down the Mississippi.

So it is no surprise that after 58 lessons -- logged diligently in his notebook -- Dewberry intends to stick with piano, which he said "stimulates the brain." These days, he is working on breaking himself of the habit of looking at his fingers while he plays and on mastering a simplified version of a Tchaikovsky concerto.

And he will do those things on Steinways.

"I'll get there," Dewberry said. "I got plenty of time."


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