Arts & Humanities Campus News

Concert, Steinway documentary screening conclude Year of the Piano

Lang Lang (Photo by Olaf Heine)

Throughout this UGA Presents season, the UGA Performing Arts Center has celebrated the Year of the Piano, commemorating the PAC’s purchase of a new Hamburg Steinway grand piano.

In the run up to a Hodgson Concert Hall recital by Lang Lang on April 27, Ciné is showing a documentary about the creation of a Steinway grand.

“Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037” by director and UGA alumnus Ben Niles will screen on April 25 at 5:15 p.m. The film includes appearances by Lang Lang and Harry Connick Jr. Niles will introduce the film and participate in a question-and-answer session afterward. The screening is sponsored by the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art and Department of Theatre and Film Studies.

The most thoroughly handcrafted instruments in the world, Steinway pianos are as unique and full of personality as the world-class musicians who play them. However, in this age of mass production, their makers are a dying breed: skilled cabinet-makers, gifted tuners, thorough hand-crafters. “Note by Note” follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037, from forest floor to concert hall.

Each piano’s journey is complex, spanning 12 months, 12,000 parts, and countless hours of fine-tuned labor. Filmed in key Steinway locations—the factory, Steinway’s reserved Bank, and the rooms of private auditions—“Note by Note” is a loving celebration not just of craftsmanship, but of a dying breed of person who is deeply connected to working by hand. In the end, this is an ode to the most unexpected of unsung heroes. It reminds us how extraordinary the dialogue can be between an artist and an instrument crafted out of human hands but borne of the materials of nature. “Note by Note” follows the yearlong, hand-crafted creation of a Steinway concert grand piano from the forest floor to the concert hall.

Niles is an American painter and filmmaker originally from Atlanta. With a background as a graphic designer in the music industry (Atlantic Records), his mixed-media paintings explore graphic shapes that create positive and negative space punctuated by bold contrasts of color. A graduate of the University of Georgia’s graphic design program, Niles attended the university’s fine arts program in Cortona, Italy, where he studied the works of the Italian masters, figure drawing, photography and calligraphy.

Niles is also an award-winning documentarian and has produced three feature documentaries to date. “Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037” won top honors at the Sarasota Film Festival, was nominated for an IDA award, selected to the prestigious American Film Showcase and has screened in over 30 countries. It has now been translated into five languages and has aired nationally on PBS since 2009. His sophomore effort, “Some Kind of Spark,” was also selected to the American Film Showcase and aired on PBS. His latest film, “The 5 Browns: Digging Through the Darkness,” has won multiple awards and premiered at the IFC Theatre in 2019.

For tickets, visit The theater is at 234 W. Hancock Ave. in downtown Athens. For more information, call 706-353-3343.

To learn more about all UGA Performing Arts Center events, visit