A Very Special Gift

On January 24, 2016, an unusual and special gift arrived all the way from an apartment tucked in the Upper West Side in Manhattan, New York to Yangon, Myanmar. It traveled several weeks on a ship, across oceans, was held in customs for a few weeks, perfectly sealed in an air and humidity free crate until it finally arrived at the Khayay School on a hot but beautiful afternoon of February 16. This special gift is a charming grand piano donated by Kimball Gallagher, a world traveling classical pianist to the Khayay School in homage of his lifelong mentor, Joseph Smith. It is believed to be the first grand piano ever to be shipped from New York to Yangon.

 Joseph Smith's Piano

Joseph Smith's Piano

 Kimball Gallagher

Kimball Gallagher

Kimball Gallagher is a classical pianist from New York and also one of the co-founders and artistic director of Myanmar Music Festival, an international classical music festival for aspiring Myanmar artists. He has risen to prominence as one of the most dynamic and multifaceted pianists on the stage today. Gallagher’s sold out 2008 debut at Carnegie Hall launched his international 88-Concert Tour, blazing a trail across all 7 continents appearing in 30 countries, while performing in distinguished venues and intimate gatherings all over the world, from the Kennedy Center to Kabul, Bombay to Boulder, Chicago to Shanghai, and Tuscany to Tunisia. Highlights of recent tour seasons have included Gallagher’s debuts at the Cairo Opera House, the National Recital Hall in Taipei, the United Nations in New York, and the World Bank, as well as in private homes and more exotic venues throughout Egypt, Myanmar, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Thailand, Fiji, China, and India. The 88 Concert Tour concluded with another sold out recital by Gallagher at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall on April 13, 2015, in New York City. With this culmination he has launched 88 International an organization based in New York which initiates and supports international music projects, including the Myanmar Music Festival. The number 88 alludes to the 88 keys of the piano. Mr. Gallagher is a graduate of Rice University and The Juilliard School. http://kimballgallagher.com/

It is on his 88 Concert tour that he initially came to Yangon in 2013 for a short visit and returned again in 2014 to visit the Khayay School. Impressed by the school's innovative curriculum and philosophy, he and another pianist, Kaiyin Huang from Taiwan, decided to establish the Myanmar Music Festival, in partnership with the Khayay School. Together, the festival and the school work to foster Myanmar's emerging talents and build a strong music education curriculum for the Khayay school. 

Aside from being a world class performer, Kimball is also a great piano teacher himself who has taught many students all around the world including students from Afghanistan where music was illegal under the Taliban regime. He firmly believes in the importance of arts, culture and quality music education in developing societies. Struck by the sudden death of his lifelong mentor Joseph Smith in early 2015, Kimball decided to donate his grand piano to the Khayay School so that students of the school and the festival can enjoy the touch and the sound of a quality instrument. 

 Joseph Smith (Photo Credit Peter Schaaf)

Joseph Smith (Photo Credit Peter Schaaf)

Joseph Smith is an important figure in Kimball's musical development and was his piano teacher since the age of 13. "He is especially known for presenting neglected works through performances, lectures, recordings, articles, broadcasts and editions. He has edited eleven piano anthologies, recorded ten CDs, and written for numerous publications. For two years, he had a monthly feature on NPR’s Performance Today.  Stuart Isacoff’s Natural History of the Pianocalls Smith a “walking encyclopedia of the piano.”  Among Smith’s special interests: early romanticism (Field, Weber), early twentieth century American music (Griffes), music and folklore (Grieg and Grainger)." http://josephsmithpianist.com/

His Baldwin resides now at Khayay and is one of the pianos which Kimball used to play growing up. Kimball is hoping that this piano will continue to serve the next generation of aspiring and talented musicians in Myanmar.

 Playing it for the first time at Khayay.

Playing it for the first time at Khayay.

The school is extremely honored and grateful to be receiving such a beautiful and meaningful gift and hope to create a music center in homage of Joseph Smith in the near future. The Khayay School is now the only general education school in Yangon to our knowledge to have a grand piano. We hope to keep developing our musical curriculum and programs more and more as part of the school's whole curriculum. An inaugural concert is currently being planned where we hope to invite you all and share more about the piano, Kimball and Joseph Smith. So please stay tuned for more information!