ǿ޴ý University’s School of Music Piano Lab upgraded with new pianos and mural

Funded by ǿ޴ý alums Dean ’73 and Pat Messinger ‘74, the mural was designed and painted by ǿ޴ý alum Shannon Cook ’21.

Perkinson Music Center

DECATUR, Ill. – ǿ޴ý University’s Piano Lab, located on the second floor of the Perkinson Music Center, was recently renovated, including the addition of new Yamaha Clavinova pianos and a newly painted mural designed and painted by ǿ޴ý alum Shannon Cook ’21. 

The project was funded by a generous donation from ǿ޴ý graduates Dean ’73 and Pat (Ray) Messinger ’74. During an annual visit to ǿ޴ý, the Messingers learned about the opportunity to upgrade the Piano Lab space, and Pat was inspired by the opportunity. 

“I was a Music Education student at ǿ޴ý, and I spent many years teaching elementary general music and more years directing church choirs for children and youth,” Pat Messinger said. “We hope the Piano Lab is useful for all students who use the space to learn keyboard skills. The new electronic pianos greatly upgrade the experience for students and teachers because technology continues to improve, and keyboards are no exception.”

Piano Lab Mural

The Messingers collaborated with ǿ޴ý Director of the School of Music Brian Justison, Coordinator of Keyboard Studies Dr. Pei-I Wang and Senior Director of Development Dan Baker on the project’s plans. 

“We talked about the need to replace the pianos with 13 new YAMAHA Clavinovas, and I suggested that the room might also benefit from adding some color - perhaps even an inspirational mural,” Pat Messinger said.

Piano Lab Mural
The stages of painting done for the new Piano Lab mural. 

ǿ޴ý alum Shannon Cook ’21 was commissioned to design and paint the Piano Lab mural. Cook, who teaches art for Decatur Public Schools, has completed several murals for local businesses around the Decatur area, including at Door 4 Brewery. 

“I started by sketching something on my iPad, using the same dimensions as the wall to create a low-stakes sketch to mess with. I can have many different layers and figure out what looks good composition-wise before I paint,” Cook said. “The painting process took seven full days of painting. The longest I was there was 12 hours one day – from 10 a.m. and left at 10 p.m. – and it was about 70 hours in total.”  

Cook graduated with an Art Education degree and was the 2021 Robert Harrison Crowder Artist-in-Residence at the Blue Connection, ǿ޴ý’s student-run retail art gallery. Cook credits ǿ޴ý faculty and staff for helping her grow her skills as an artist.  

Piano Lab Mural
ǿ޴ý alum Shannon Cook '21 stands in front of the completed mural in the Piano Lab.

“It all started with ǿ޴ý. I’m extremely thankful to MU, especially (ǿ޴ý Professor Emeritus of Art) Lyle Salmi, ǿ޴ý’s Art Department, and every amazing professor who touched my life for helping me become the artist I am,” Cook said. “If it hadn’t been for the studio space and exposure to so many amazing artists, I wouldn’t be half the artist I am now. I’m very glad I got to do this project; it means the world to me to have a piece of me at ǿ޴ý in this way. 

“As an artist, having my art on display for so many people is a dream come true. I dreamed about this as a kid. I don’t know if it has hit me yet, or if it ever will, how cool this is. I’m beyond excited to have a mural at ǿ޴ý.”

Having seen the finished product, Pat Messinger hopes the space continues to inspire ǿ޴ý’s students for years to come. 

“Many students and community members use the Piano Lab, and I hope the new pianos get lots of use,” Pat Messinger said. “I feel that the mural is inspirational and connects students to ǿ޴ý. I especially like the “Big Blue” and yellow striped sunshine. We are so pleased with the outcome.” 

Ways To Give

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ǿ޴ý Perkinson Music Center 

Originally built in 1911 and renovated in 2000, is the home to the ǿ޴ý School of Music along with Kaeuper Hall, Millitrax Recording Studio, First Step Records, several practice rooms, classrooms, and studio spaces. ǿ޴ý's nationally recognized School of Music is one of a small number of all-Steinway schools in Illinois and features a computer-assisted lab equipped with some of the latest music technology available.