The Kawai Corporation of America has named The University of Southern Mississippi School of Music to its roster of Elite Performing Instrument Collection (EPIC) schools. In a presentation on Tuesday, Oct. 29, officials from the Kawai Corporation presented Southern Miss President Rodney D. Bennett and Dr. Michael Miles, director of the School of Music, a plaque commemorating the announcement.
“Becoming an EPIC School sends a very clear message to our students, faculty and patrons that this institution is dedicated to providing the highest quality of education to our students,” said Miles. “High performance standards in our music programs must be met with equally high standards for our instrument inventory, and Kawai instruments meet those standards in every possible way.”
The Elite Performing Instrument Collection (EPIC) is a unique institutional program made possible by the Shigeru Kawai Endowment. Qualifying institutions are given the opportunity to acquire an elite assortment of fine Kawai and Shigeru Kawai instruments at sponsored cost levels. This status ranks the school among other EPIC programs including the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec and the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Lori Lewis, regional director, institutional division of Kawai, noted that Southern Miss is the only Mississippi university to receive EPIC designation. With this designation, 34 brand new pianos now make up half of the Southern Miss instruments. The EPIC program was originally established as a $500,000 initiative in the USM Development Office in 2011.
As a result of the devastating tornado that struck the Hattiesburg campus on Feb. 10, the Mississippi Legislature provided $1.1 million dollars in tornado emergency relief funds for instrument repair and replacement in the School of Music. This funding allowed the School of Music to replace and repair pianos damaged in the tornado and at the same time meet the requirements for EPIC status.
“It was very easy for me to go to the legislature and ask for money to be used for tornado relief in our School of Music,” said Bennett. “I love music and particularly the piano. We are so fortunate to have a music program full of wonderful teachers and students who give so much to make our University a true leader in the arts.”
As a gift for reaching EPIC status, the school was given a complete electronic piano teaching laboratory with 16 student pianos and a master teaching piano valued at approximately $50,000.
“Our students, faculty and patrons will reap the benefits of EPIC status for years to come as we train future generations of musical artists and educators,” said Miles.