A Mead Witter School of Music research project by professors Martha Fischer and John Stowe is one of 17 projects funded by the Research Core Revitalization Program. The program will strengthen campus research core capacities by supporting the upgrade, replacement or duplication of heavily used shared research resources.
The mission of “Replacement of Workhorse Musical Keyboard Instruments for Research and Performance” is to provide faculty and graduate students with a diverse range of healthy, high-quality keyboard instruments. The collection includes historical keyboards (harpsichords, organs) and modern pianos, such as alternatively sized keyboard actions, and the unique double-manual Steinway concert grand. These instruments allow soloists, collaborative artists and scholars to engage in cutting-edge research, exploring innovative performance practices and applications.
This initiative provides funds for the purchase of replacement pianos in faculty studios and practice rooms, and also includes the acquisition of a portative organ, used heavily in historically informed choral, chamber music, and opera of the 18th and early 19th centuries and before. The current piano and harpsichord inventory dates back mostly to the 1970s and is wearing out due to overuse.
This step toward improving the health of the keyboard inventory will have a lasting impact on current students and faculty alike, and will positively influence the Mead Witter School of Music’s ability to recruit the best keyboard artists of the future.
The pilot Research Core Revitalization Program is supported by an investment from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Awards range from $20,000 to $300,000.
Cores provide specialized equipment and expertise that benefit many individual research labs. These shared resources allow the university to support many investigators at once by maintaining and upgrading high-end instrumentation that would be cost-prohibitive for any single lab. Each core supports dozens to hundreds of research programs.
“These resources play a critical role in UW’s research enterprise,” says Vice Chancellor Steve Ackerman. “The Research Core Revitalization Program continues our investment in improving these critical tools and capabilities, enabling progress and catalyzing collaboration in basic and translational sciences.”
The Office of Campus Research Cores has developed a Research Cores Directory for shared equipment and services on campus, including data for about 170 core units, 700 shared instruments and resources, and 450 professional services. The directory is publicly available.
Isabelle Girard, co-director of the Office of Campus Research Cores, explains that these resources have a limited lifespan. Although the cores are essential and highly used, they may not be eligible or competitive for federal and other external grant programs targeting new capabilities and technologies. Cores typically recover all or a portion of their costs through user fees, although some subsidized core services may be accessible without direct charge to the user.
“Researchers across campus depend on the shared workhorse resources managed by cores, and reinvestment in these capabilities ensures continuity and productivity,” Girard says.
Industry partners also consult with and hire many UW–Madison cores. Core facilities help these businesses stay on budget, provide access to new software tools, data storage and computing capacity, and help biotech and pharmaceutical companies bridge the gap in the early phases between academic and translational research. Along with access to equipment, industry partners benefit from the expertise of the campus staff who operate that equipment.
“Many of our research accomplishments would not be possible without cores support that includes specific technologies and expertise. Core facilities enable researchers to design their studies using technologies and instruments that they otherwise could not afford or manage on their own,” says Cynthia Czajkowski, associate vice chancellor for research in the biological sciences. “Our facilities help foster the collaborative research environment that is crucial for competitive interdisciplinary science.”