The Keyboard Institute is a significant research centre of the School of Music at the Australian National University in Canberra. Established in 2005, the Institute is an impressive and unique collection of both period instruments and modern historical copies. With over 40 instruments, it is one of the largest accessible and playable collection in the southern hemisphere. Many of its instruments are important to Australia’s cultural heritage, and the Institute can be seen as a reflection of the standards of teaching, research, and performance goals within the School’s keyboard area.
Several of the instruments in the collection were donated to the Canberra School of Music following its inauguration in 1965. With the efforts of Dr Geoffrey Lancaster, the collection grew substantially from 2005. As part of his initiative, he commissioned several new instruments, including the three Viennese fortepiano replicas by Paul McNulty, and drew national public awareness of the Institute. As a result, many Australians contacted Dr Lancaster and the School to offer donation of instruments they had collected or had held in their family for many years.
The collection was assembled with the intention that the instruments would be studied and played by students at the School, as well as by visiting artists. Since its official launch in 2005, the Keyboard Institute has been a significant part of the School’s community, and an important asset for both keyboard and composition students. The Keyboard Institute is not configured as a museum, even if some historically important instruments will remain in their original state. Rather, the collection aspires to be central in practice-led research and historically-informed performance practice.
In 2014, Dr Erin Helyard was appointed to the staff of the School of Music, and undertook oversight of the collection, followed three years later by Dr Mike Chengyu Lee. Both performed frequently on the instruments, and brought the collection into regular use as a teaching resource for keyboard students. In 2020, Dr Scott Davie was appointed to the staff, and currently oversees the collection.
For future generations, the School of Music endeavours to preserve and maintain its instruments capable or worthy of restoration to high performance standard. Financial donations towards this crucial task are welcomed.
If you would like to know more about the collection, or become involved, please email the School of Music for further information.