Steeped in the arts, students at Staples High School spend a great deal of time performing in the school's auditorium. Aside from the stage itself, the 1995 Yamaha, 6-foot, 1-inch grand piano is perhaps the most used -- and most important -- aspect of the performing arts space.

However, because of its heavy usage by Staples' choral, band, orchestral, a capella and musical theater groups, as well as town-wide musical festivals and community events, the piano is now broken beyond repair.

The Staples Music Parents' Association recently launched a campaign to raise $30,000 to replace the grand piano with an identical model.

The goal is to present the piano in honor of retiring music teacher Alice Lipson in June, said Fran Southworth, a volunteer with the parent's association.

Lipson is retiring after spending 35 years as a music educator in the Westport schools. She taught for the past 22 years at Staples.

"She is so loved by all of the students and all of the parents," said Southworth.

The current piano was recently assessed by Chris Haberbosch from Acousticraft Inc. of Bloomfield. According to David A. Winer, K-12 supervisor of music for Westport schools, the company committed to repairing and restoring fine grand pianos, advised that the district that the sound board had several large, visible cracks that caused buzzing and tonal anomalies.

"He also reported that the entire inner workings need replacing, from strings to hammers and regulation, and the pedal lyre casing is falling apart, among other things," Winer said. "As someone who assesses pianos for potential restoration, he recommends replacing this one, not repairing."

Led by Southworth and Dave DeVoll, founder of the Staples Music Parents Association, corporate and personal, tax-deductible donations are being accepted for a new piano. Checks should be made out to the Staples Music Parents Association with "new piano" written on the memo line.

"You can fix just about anything on a piano but the soundboard," Southworth explained.

According to Southworth, although DeVoll's son, Will, graduated last June, DeVoll has continued to stay involved in the organization. "He wanted to make sure that the group continued to help the kids involved in music," she noted.

Southworth's son, Alan, participates in several music groups at Staples, including the Orphenians, Jazz Band and Chorus. He also recently asked to be part of the All-State Choir and was recognized with a regional arts award. A classical pianist, Alan recently put together a CD containing both vocals and piano music. Alan will enroll this fall in Princeton University's Class of 2014.

As impressive as these accomplishments are, Alan is one of several students who has benefited from Staples' comprehensive music curriculum.

Also served by the town's talented youth, the Westport community enjoys attending the music department's annual Candlelight Concerts and musical theater productions.

"Actually, all of the concerts offered throughout the year are open to the public," Southworth said.

The Candlelight Concert is billed each December as the school's "gift to the town" because there is no charge for admission. Southworth said that last year more than 3,000 people attended the holiday concerts.

"This new piano will serve the whole community," Southworth said. "People come year after year to hear our music students even though they don't have children participating or even attending Staples."

During the past year, the Staples Music Parents Association has supported the school's music programs by serving meals to the performers in between concert shows, organizing a used instrument sale, coordinating playbill advertising and assisting with members of the National Music Honors Society. The parent volunteers now hope to be able to present a new piano to the school at the Orphenians' 50th anniversary celebration in June.

To contribute, contact the Staples Music Parents Association at P.O. Box 223, Westport, CT 06881-0223; e-mail or visit