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A Major Gift to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music Supports the Purchase of the Renowned School’s 200th Steinway Piano

March 21, 2007 -- The Oberlin Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College, Steinway & Sons’ oldest continuous client and the first “All-Steinway School,” recently received a significant addition to its collection of Steinway pianos. A $150,000 gift from Alan and Marilyn Korest, of Naples, Florida, has supported the purchase of Oberlin’s 200th Steinway piano. The instrument, a Model “D” built at Steinway’s factory in Hamburg, Germany, will be introduced to the world at a dedication concert on Sunday, April 29, at 3 p.m. in Finney Chapel, on the Oberlin campus.

The Korests’ gift honors the distinguished organist and pedagogue Fenner Douglass and his late wife, Jane, both of whom graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The two couples met when the Korests were devising plans to build Bower Chapel, named for Marilyn Korest’s father, at Moorings Park, a continuing care retirement community that is home to more than 700 residents, in Naples, Florida.

In addition to finding the best architect and acoustician for the project, the Korests were also looking for an organ builder who would craft a marvelous instrument worthy of the space.

“We decided that a high-quality pipe organ should be the musical focal point,” says Alan Korest. “We had met Fenner at a Handel Messiah musical event at Trinity by the Cove Episcopal Church in Naples, and in doing some further organ research, we found that we had the ‘mother lode’ of organ history right here in Naples.” Fenner Douglass, who, in addition to performing, was Professor of Organ at Oberlin from 1949 to 1974, and is a noted organ scholar.

“We quickly contacted Fenner and were pleased that he was very enthused about helping us,” says Korest. “Over the next few months, we made many visits to important organs around the country, all the while getting well acquainted with the Fenner Douglass enthusiasm, high energy level, and solid musical practical knowledge. The result of this collaboration between Fenner, our architect, acoustician, and Taylor & Boody resulted in arguably one of the top organ performance halls in the country.”

Douglass had recommended the Staunton, Virginia, firm of Taylor & Boody to the Korests, and shepherded construction of the chapel’s centerpiece, a 1,902-pipe organ, through its dedication at a two-concert series in November 2001. Five years later, the Taylor & Boody Opus 36 was officially renamed the “Fenner Douglass Organ at Bower Chapel,” at an event that featured performances by Joan Lippincott, David Higgs, and James David Christie, Professor of Organ at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a graduate of the school.

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s 200th Steinway will be known as the Jane and Fenner Douglass Hamburg Steinway.

“It is a great honor for Oberlin to accept this gift from Alan and Marilyn Korest in the name of Jane and Fenner Douglass,” says David H. Stull, Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. “The Korests are great friends of both Oberlin and Fenner, and this instrument will serve generations of artists for decades to come.”

The free, public concert to dedicate the Jane and Fenner Douglass Hamburg Steinway will feature performances by members of the Conservatory’s piano faculty. The program will include works by Brahms, Ravel, and Tchaikovsky, among others. Finney Chapel is wheelchair-accessible and located on the southwest corner of Route 511 (Lorain Street) and North Professor Street. Free parking is available throughout the campus. For more information, please call the Conservatory’s 24-hour Concert Hotline at 440-775-6933 or visit oberlin.edu/con.

About the Jane and Fenner Douglass Hamburg Steinway
A contingent from Oberlin traveled to Hamburg, Germany, in February 2007 to select the instrument. Associate Dean of the Conservatory Michael Lynn, who also curates Oberlin’s impressive collection of period and modern musical instruments; Director of Piano Technology John Cavanaugh; Professor of Piano Peter Takács, who also chairs the piano program; Professor of Piano Monique Duphil; and Associate Professor of Historical Performance David Breitman, director of Oberlin’s Historical Performance Program, tested seven Model “D” pianos, all of which, says Dean Lynn, were “beautiful.” The chosen piano, however, was the faculty’s unanimous pick, and is the second Hamburg Steinway of the Conservatory’s collection.

Nearly 9-feet long and weighing almost 1,000 pounds, the Douglass Hamburg Steinway is encased in ebonized walnut and birch with solid brass hardware. The rim of the instrument is made entirely from hard rock maple that underwent 18 laminations. Its soundboard, which is made of close-grained, quarter-sawn Sitka spruce — a wood that exhibits unusual stability and vibrance under stress and vibration — is created like the soundboard of a violin to give a free and even response throughout the entire scale. Complete specifications for Steinway’s Hamburg Model “D” piano can be found at

About Alan and Marilyn Korest
Alan and Marilyn Korest believe strongly in supporting education and the arts. They first established their reputation in serious music philanthropy when they implemented the wishes of Marilyn’s late father, Edwin H. Bower, in the design and building of Bower Chapel at Moorings Park, in Naples, Florida, the centerpiece of which is the Fenner Douglass Organ at Bower Chapel, built by Taylor & Boody.  The Korests also provide support for annual concerts at Bower Chapel featuring Oberlin Professor of Organ James David Christie, Oberlin organ students, and other young, talented performers. In November 2006, their substantial gift to Florida Gulf Coast University established the Bower School of Music in honor of Marilyn’s father. Two focal points of the Bower School of Music will be the education of music teachers for southwest Florida public schools and the establishment of a music therapy program.           

Alan Korest was raised in Detroit, attending public schools there. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Northwestern University. In 1958, he founded Plant Specialties Company, an industrial sales and manufacturing firm in Michigan, and served as its CEO until 1983, when the company was sold. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served as an intelligence officer during the Korean War. He has been a member of the City of Naples Planning Advisory Board, Vice-Mayor of Naples City Council, President of the Forum Club of Collier County, and he has sat on the boards of such organizations as Save the Bay, Southwest Heritage, the Tourist Development Council, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the Big Cypress Basin. He is currently a member of the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation Board and the advisory board of the Eastman School of Music. At Moorings Park, he is a member of the board of directors and has served as its chair as well as on all of its committees. He presently is chairman of the nominating and governance committee and the executive committee.

Marilyn Korest was also raised in Detroit, attending primary and secondary schools in Grosse Point, attending Michigan State University, and graduating from Boston University, where she also earned a master’s degree. She has a great interest in music and music education and has been an active supporter of music programs and education. Since moving to Naples in 1983, she has continued her involvement in the arts and education community, and has been a board member of the Naples Philharmonic League.

The Korests have eight children and ten grandchildren, residing in various cities throughout the United States, from Boston to San Francisco.
About Jane and Fenner Douglass
After earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Oberlin, Fenner Douglass, a distinguished organist and pedagogue, joined the Oberlin faculty, where he remained until 1974, when he became University Organist and Professor at Duke University. Now retired, he lives in Naples, Florida. Trained as a performer and principally a teacher of organ performance, Fenner Douglass pursued a parallel career as a scholar. As a pioneer in the historical performance movement, he pursued scholarly interests that focused on the organ traditions of France. His first book, The Language of the Classical French Organ, (Yale University Press, 1969), has become the standard reference work for organ music of the French baroque period; a revised edition was issued in paperback in 1995.

Subsequently, Douglass’ major research efforts centered on the work of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, the French organ master who took organ building into new directions and standards of excellence in the second half of the 19th century. Fenner Douglass was successful in obtaining most of the personal documents, correspondence, and contracts of Cavaillé-Coll, which became the basis for a two- volume work of 1,534 pages, Cavaillé-Coll and the Musicians (Sunbury Press, 1980). Its value as a reference work was confirmed when in 1999 Yale University Press produced a condensed and revised edition of the work, titled, Cavaillé-Coll and the French Romantic Tradition. Douglass is also the editor of a two-volume work published by the Westfield Center honoring the organ builder Charles Fisk. In recognition of Fenner Douglass’ scholarly contributions, William Peterson and Lawrence Archbold dedicated to him their book, French Organ Music from the Revolution to Franck and Widor (University of Rochester Press, 1995). 

Throughout his career, Douglass has been an effective proponent of organ building based on historical traditions. His close friendship with Dirk Flentrop and Charles Fisk found him frequently working as a consultant with one or the other on organ projects throughout the country. He charted the course for Oberlin’s remarkable collection of period instruments with the installation of the Flentrop organ in Warner Concert Hall together with plans for the Brombaugh organ in Fairchild Chapel and ultimately the Fisk organ in Finney Chapel.

In a remarkable teaching career, Fenner Douglass has taught countless students, many now prominent in the profession.

Jane Douglass, who graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1953, was a great source of support to Fenner Douglass throughout his career. In addition, she taught piano privately and also served as an associate organist at Christ Church in Oberlin. When the couple moved to North Carolina, she continued to teach piano and also did volunteer work in the community. Two of their three children, Emily and John, are graduates of Oberlin.

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Media Contact:

Marci Janas
Director of Conservatory Media Relations

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