Oak Park Arms Senior Living by resident Betsy Davis

Jazz historian John Steiner’s Steinway piano donated to Oak Park Arms

John Steiner’s Steinway grand piano has been donated to the Oak Park Arms Senior Living by resident Betsy Davis. Steiner was the world’s foremost authority on early Chicago jazz. He built an exceptional personal collection of approximately 35,000 recordings, sheet music, and newspaper articles. Today, his collection is housed in the Chicago Jazz Archive of the University of Chicago Library.

Steiner (1908 – 2000) developed a passion for jazz by spending weekends in the nightspots of Chicago’s South Side. He came to know key figures such as Earl “Fatha” Hines, drummer Baby Dodds, and many other jazz luminaries. Hines, one of the most influential figures in the development of jazz piano, played and practiced on Steiner’s piano throughout decades of friendship.

Although Steiner worked full time as a research chemist and later taught at the University of Illinois Chicago, he used his off-hours to document jazz music in Chicago. As an example of his commitment, in 1946, he dragged a portable recording machine to Chicago’s Civic Opera House, climbed onto the catwalk above the stage, dangled a microphone below and captured the Duke Ellington Orchestra on recordings that would not have existed without such efforts.

A founding member of the non-profit Jazz Institute of Chicago, Steiner also held considerable stature as a jazz scholar. His articles in collectors’ magazines and contributions to jazz history books brought authoritative information to a field often shrouded in myth and stereotype.

A year ago, when Steiner’s step daughter-in-law Betsy Davis moved to the Oak Park Arms, she knew the piano would not fit in her apartment. This led to her decision to donate the illustrious instrument to the Arms.

“This is a great piece of jazz history considering the hands that played the piano and Mr. Steiner’s relentless passion for early Chicago jazz. Betsy is so generous to donate it the Arms. Its exceptional sound will entertain many residents and members of the public for years to come.”

Renee Steingard, director of leasing and resident engagement at the Oak Park Arms.

The Oak Park Arms Senior Living is a rental retirement community which provides senior housing in the form of independent living apartments. Additional services include an award-winning adult day care program. Furnished apartments are also available for a short-term stay.

For more information call 708-386-4040.

For more information about the John Steiner Collection at the University of Chicago Library visit: https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/scrc/findingaids/view.php?eadid=ICU.SPCL.STEINERJ