The Washington Post

A $553,000 piano controversy in Maryland?

At a time when the state is facing huge budget shortfalls, when companies are still laying off workers, when colleges are cutting back, when the phrase “we just can’t afford that” is as common as “Good morning,” here is a question to ponder:

A Steinway, circa 1983. (Barbara Cackler. Handout photo.)

The Maryland Board of Public Works faced that question yesterday, when officials from Bowie State University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center came asking for 32 pianos either made or designed by Steinway.

This request greatly bothered board member and State Comptroller Peter Franchot, who according to said this at the hearing: “Given the challenges that these universities face, I think it’s a luxury at this point that the taxpayer shouldn’t be paying for.”

Couldn’t they buy Chevrolets instead of Rolls Royces, Franchot asked.

Bowie State officials countered that their current pianos were “substandard,” that listeners could hear the difference in good vs. bad pianos, and that if the school buys Steinways it will be just the second historically black college to have the honor of playing on such magical instruments.

Also, the University of Maryland has them.

So how did the vote go down? Besides Franchot, there are two other board members: State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Gov. Martin O’Malley, a noted musician.

Franchot voted no. Kopp and O’Malley voted yes.

Bowie State is getting their Steinways.

Would you have voted yes on this request? Sound off in the comments section below.

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.