Dedicated to a Work Ethic Second to None

January 6, 2018
R. Scott Reedy


Piano Technology

Advanced Piano student Justin Vance, a recipient of the scholarship

The Piano Technology program was the beneficiary this year of the School’s first alumni funded scholarship endowment. Proceeds from the endowment will provide half-scholarships for two Advanced Piano Technology students in perpetuity.

The endowment was first established as the Patty Murphy Scholarship Fund in 2009 by Lew Surdam, a 1980 graduate of the program, and his wife Toni, in honor of Patty Murphy PA ’94, Lew’s friend and former colleague. This year, they increased that fund and converted it to an endowment, now known as the Surdam-Murphy Scholarship, so that it will benefit piano technology students for generations to come.

Lew arrived at the School in 1978 and in many ways has never left. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 2012, and has been a Program Advisor for over 30 years.

“When I first arrived at NBSS, all I wanted to do was learn how to tune, but I stayed for the Advanced program and I’ve always been glad I did. I had so much fun as a student in the piano program, and then I spent 29 years at Harvard in Piano Technical Services. I really wanted that job and I never would have gotten it were it not for the School,” says Lew. “What kept me engaged after that was the need to continue learning. I was always asking [Department Head] David [Betts PA ’72] to come over to Harvard and give me refreshers on how to put in a hammer rail or any number of other things.”

“We established the Scholarship in Patty’s name to benefit students who need financial support, and we’ve been pleased to see so many of them go on to do great things in the field of piano technology.”

It was while he was manager of Piano Technical Services at Harvard that Lew first met Patty Murphy. “Patty came to work for me part-time while she was still a student at NBSS and full-time after graduation. She was an unbelievably generous, warm, and caring person, with a beautiful smile. Patty was also a great piano technician. Her technical work was exquisite and her work ethic was second to none,” recalls Lew.

“We established the Scholarship in Patty’s name to benefit students who need financial support, and we’ve been pleased to see so many of them go on to do great things in the field of piano technology,” says Lew.

Alex Young, another scholarship recipient

Justin Vance PT ’17 (pictured above) and Alex Young PT ’17 (left), were both recipients of the scholarship in 2017.

The Scholarship, which 20 students have received since it was established, means a great deal to the program, according to David. “The scholarship has made the difference for many students who have been able to attend the second-year program but who otherwise would not have attended. Because of the scholarship, many of them did not need to have a part-time job during school and were able to spend extra time working on projects directly related to their studies.”

David credits his one-time student and longtime friend with more than just financial support.

“Lew started as a program advisor in the mid-1980s and I cannot remember a meeting that he did not attend. I have always felt that if I have a question or need help or advice, Lew will do whatever he can. Lew is not an advisor because of his generous donations, but because of his expertise in the field, his passion for the Piano Technology program, and the friendship we have.

“That being said, all of us on the faculty cannot thank Lew and Toni enough for their unbelievable generosity,” says David.

This article is from our 2017 Annual Report. See all the stories here, or download a pdf of the entire report.

Piano Technology Program