It would appear that geeks are geeks, no matter what it is that gets them geeked up.
It might have been the winning car from the Daytona 500, or the latest advancement in super computers. But in this case it was the Steinway and Sons piano that was once owned and played by the late Vladimir Horowitz.
It was on display Tuesday at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. It's been on tour since 1986. For the first two years, Horowitz demanded that it be shipped to Russia, Vienna and every other stop on his concert tours. When he died in 1989, his widow gave the piano back to the Steinway company, and it has been on a solo tour ever since.
Just as local racing fans might shy away from being the first to fire up a NASCAR machine ... as a local computer user might be a little intimidated at first by the latest in technology, ONU students had to be seriously coaxed to step up and play this legendary instrument.
Finally, Rebecca Stolberg, a junior music education major from Bolingbrook, dared to play a piece by Felix Mendelssohn.
"Yes, there was some extra adrenaline up there, knowing that this was Vladimir Horowitz' piano," she said. "And I was away for the weekend. I haven't practiced much lately. But it was a wonderful."
The concert piano, known in classical music circles as CD 503, was chosen specifically for Horowitz and presented in 1941. It was in his home until it was shipped to Russia when he made his triumphant return to the homeland he left in the 1920s.
Without Horowitz, the piano has traveled to from Fort Worth to Philadelphia and Florence, Ky. It's made stops in London, Vancouver, Kansas City, Pensacola, Fla., Cleveland, Berlin and scores of other cities, large and small. There is no official estimate of how many individuals have played it, only a guess of "thousands."
"It's scheduled to be in our Chicago studios for just six weeks," said Rhapsody Snyder, a Steinway employee and manager of this portion of the tour. "I'm not sure where it goes next, but don't worry: It weighs between 700 and 800 pounds, but we move pianos every day."
It is tuned for every performance, but there are standing orders that the piano's "voice" will never be altered. It sounds today as it sounded when Horowitz played it.
Other students eventually stepped forward and played other serious pieces. Snyder confided that this isn't always the case. Others have played boogie-woogie or contemporary works. Some play "Chopsticks."
As the formal program ended, the 60-70 attendees — students, faculty and friends of the university — gathered closer to the well-traveled instrument, just as racing fans and technology devotees would have. Some wanted to simply touch something special. Others and wanting a closer look at how it works.