Mike the Tiger is just going to have to accept the fact that he isn’t the only furry Louisiana icon on campus.
At least for a little while.
Because the Blue Dog has come to LSU.
The LSU School of Music was to unveil its new arrival in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Nov. 10 before kick-off of the LSU-Mississippi State football game.
Now comes the twist to the story, because this isn’t artist George Rodrigue’s typical Blue Dog, meaning she wasn’t painted on canvas.
This brings up another point. Rodrigue’s Blue Dog is female. He based her on photographs of his deceased studio dog Tiffany when creating a painting of Louisiana’s werewolf legend, the loup garou. The loup garou gave way to the Blue Dog, which now covers the 1913 model A Steinway piano donated to the LSU School of Music.
“It’s amazing,” Laurence Kaptain said.
He’s dean of the LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts, which has been affected by state budget cuts in the last two years.
“George Rodrigue’s generosity is amazing,” Kaptain continued. “Steve Compton, our former director of development, came up with the idea. He brought the idea to the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.”
The foundation is a nonprofit organization that advocates the importance of the visual arts in the development of youth, encourages the use of art within all curriculums and supports a variety of educational programs.
“This is a way to bring music and visual art together,” Stephen Beck said.
Beck is director of the LSU School of Music. He had seen the piano, now called the Rodrigue Steinway, only in photos before it was to be unveiled Saturday.
“This is a work of art in more ways than one,” Beck said. “Each Steinway is unique, so the instrument is a work of art in itself. And the artwork on the Steinway is unique. It’s remarkable, and I can’t say enough about George Rodrigue’s generosity.”
The Steinway was donated by Hall Piano Co. of Metairie. Again, the piano was built in 1913, but it was unplayable.
“It was gutted, then rebuilt,” Beck said. “It will be a century old next year.”
“Steinway pianos have always been associated with excellence,” Steve Kinchen added.
He’s owner of Hall Piano Co., which installed Steinway pianos in the LSU School of Music in 2011.
“Their rich, unrivaled sound, incomparable tone and touch inspires students to realize their artistic talents and best prepares them to compete at the highest level in the professional world,” he continued. “By providing the finest instruments possible, institutions like Louisiana State University demonstrate their commitment to excellence at every level of the educational experience to their students, staff and audiences alike.”
And the eventual sale of the Rodrigue Steinway will help the LSU School of Music in funding more programs, maybe even furnishing more Steinways for its professors and students.
Yes, the ultimate goal is to sell this piano with the proceeds benefiting both the school and foundation. But not before it tours Louisiana and other parts of the country.
“It will be used in some events here on campus,” Beck said.
One of those events may be the school’s popular Concert Spectacular in the spring, which showcases vocal and instrumental soloists and ensembles in a nonstop program.
But the tour schedule has yet to be finalized.
“It will travel for two years, but it would be great if someone stepped up to buy the piano before the tour ends,” Kaptain said.
The piano, itself, is a parlor-sized baby grand, which accounts for its Steinway classification as model A. It has been stocked with a Midi Interface that will digitally record each player’s performance.
“It won’t record the music but the players’ execution,” Kaptain said.
And one has to see the piano to understand just how the Blue Dog dominates it. Rodrigue didn’t simply paint the Blue Dog’s portrait on top of the piano. He covered the instrument with Blue Dogs backed by swirls in brilliant color, swirls, he said, were his interpretation of music.
“Other schools have also done this,” Kaptain said.
“Boise State had a piano painted blue like their football field, and the University of Florida had an alligator painted on theirs. Those were done by companies, which is great, but the artwork on this one was created by an artist.”
Louisiana’s artist laureate at that.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind,” Kaptain said.
And LSU piano student Oscar Rossignoli was scheduled to be the first to perform on this one-of-a-kind artwork at the Tiger Athletic Foundation’s tailgating event.
Rossignoli is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. And his music for Saturday?
Why LSU’s fight songs, of course. These are usually reserved for the likes of Mike the Tiger. But Mike shouldn’t fret. The Blue Dog isn’t really trying to steal his spotlight but paying tribute to his institution.
Through the merging of art and music.