Ke Gong had many questions when the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes to move online. Among them, the doctoral student in piano performance wondered how she could continue her studies from her Greenbelt apartment without a piano.

Gong, who is from China, wasn’t stalled for long: She is one of seven Terps in the area who received a Steinway piano in recent weeks to continue playing while the state is under a stay-at-home order.

While donations of surgical masks and medical equipment or computers and Wi-Fi hotspots are growing both in need and popularity, this unique delivery was thanks to a partnership between the School of Music (SOM) and the well-known piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons. A certified “All-Steinway School,” SOM has an inventory of 100+ Steinway pianos.

“I was so happy and surprised,” said Gong. “This solved a lot of problems that I was concerned about.”

Shortly after UMD announced that classes would be held remotely, SOM Associate Director for Academic Affairs Gregory Miller and SOM Senior Assistant Director for Productions and Operations Aaron Muller reached out to Matthew Bachman ’05, M.M. ’07, D.M.A. ’14, a manager at Steinway Piano Gallery of Washington, D.C.

Bachman knows how committed piano students are. As one at UMD, Bachman spent countless hours playing SOM pianos. “It was clear something had to be done,” he said.

He approached David Slan, the gallery owner, with a special request: gifting the cost of moving seven Steinway pianos from School of Music practice rooms in The Clarice to the homes of students who needed them. Slan immediately agreed, and Lewis Piano Movers delivered them to the undergraduate and graduate students across the region within a few hours. The pianos will eventually be returned to SOM.

“It was a huge endeavor considering the ever-changing policies and procedures coming in from the governor's office and the special circumstances surrounding the needs of these students,” said Miller.

Gong was thrilled to receive the piano. With her family overseas, the piano helps her feel less lonely and provides a means for escape.

“I can express my feelings and my inner world by playing the piano,” she said. “It gives me peace of mind in this difficult time.”