Inspired by Student’s Story, Chicago Lawyer Donates Valuable Piano to Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts

photo of piano donated by Nancy Hablutzel

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–July 27, 2015.  Nancy Hablutzel was moved to action when she read about violinist Krissy Cooper’s courageous struggle to graduate earlier this year from Roosevelt University in a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune.

A lawyer who has practiced and taught disability law in Chicago, Hablutzel understood Cooper’s difficulty in trying to get her school work done while dealing with pain and illness related to a rare connective-tissue disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

“When I got to the part about the syndrome I remember thinking ‘Oh yes, I know what she is going through,’” said Hablutzel, who, like Cooper, has been diagnosed and is dealing every day with the genetic condition and one of its jarring symptoms, hyper-extension of joints that move past the expected range of motion.

She was impressed by the fact that Cooper and her mother, Rebecca Binkley, had the courage to speak publicly about a condition that few know about or understand. 

Even more so, Hablutzel was moved by the care that Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) took to accommodate Cooper in her effort to get a Bachelor’s of Music in Violin Performance, an accomplishment that Cooper achieved in May.

“I just felt that Roosevelt University went beyond what was required to help Krissy Cooper get through school, and it made me want to show my support,” added Hablutzel, who donated an heirloom Steinway piano to CCPA.

“I wanted the piano to be played by serious students and to be well taken care of,” added Hablutzel, who had the Steinway since 1951, but had not played it herself in 10 years due to the onset of arthritis in her finger joints, which have occasionally hyper-extended due to EDS.  “By giving this piano to Roosevelt’s music school, I know I won’t have to worry about its future,” she said. 

Arriving at the University on July 21, the piano has been placed in a shared studio on the ninth floor of the Auditorium Building in CCPA’s Music Conservatory where students will have use of the instrument as a part of their chamber rehearsals, vocal coachings and private lessons.

“There are a lot of pianos out there that aren’t good for a heavy-use environment, but I’m always excited when someone decides to donate a high-quality piano like this,” said Roosevelt Piano Tuner/Technician Wesley Owen of the Steinway, which is valued at $22,000. “It’s a very generous gift and I think that CCPA and its students will be able to get decades of use out of this instrument,” he added.

Since graduating, Cooper has been coping with spasms related to hyper-mobility of her neck, which have been making it difficult for her to regularly practice the violin. Still, she was elated to learn that her decision to tell her story to the Chicago Tribune about her experiences with EDS had been touched someone.

“It was always my goal to share my story in order to help others understand what this condition is all about,” said Cooper. “It’s pretty awesome that it moved her to make a donation like this,” she added. 

It is common for all kinds of musical instruments to be donated to CCPA’s Music Conservatory, according to CCPA Dean Henry Fogel. However, he believes it is a stunning coincidence that two people in Chicago experiencing the same rare syndrome would spur such a gift.  

“We can always use more pianos for our students to learn on and perform on. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I am deeply grateful, and quite frankly deeply touched by Nancy’s donation of the piano.”