Certain her future was in piano performance, Susan Wrincik Lutz ’86 enrolled at Millikin. “All I ever wanted to do was play,” the Sherman, Ill., resident recalls. “I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a school teacher, so I majored in performance. Aldo Mancinelli was my piano teacher.” However, when she met fellow Springfield, Ill., resident Jude Ludwig Malzone ’76 in a music class, Lutz found a friend who inadvertently opened the door to a new career.
“When Jude decided not to return to teaching piano after her baby was born, I wound up spending part of my senior year teaching her students at her husband’s music store – Byerly Music in Springfield,” Lutz says. When Lutz first started teaching at Byerly, a customer told store owner Gerry Malzone, “You ought to put her on the sales floor.” Malzone did just that, and with no formal sales training and not a single business or marketing class on her resume, Lutz turned her passion for music and pianos into a successful sales career.
Now working as director of institutional sales for Steinway Piano Gallery, Lutz’s territory covers most of Illinois and half of Missouri. Last April, that territory was expanded to include Millikin. “I’m so happy and excited to be able to take care of my alma mater,” she says. “It’s wonderful to come back to campus and work with [School of Music Director] Steve Widenhofer, [adjunct piano instructor] Judy Mancinelli and others I know so well.” On the road most weekdays, she sets her own visit schedule for the 65 public and private schools in her territory. “I think of myself as an advocate for music programs,” Lutz says. “I’ve discovered that most music departments are so busy that they just don’t have time to take on a huge project like buying 50 pianos. They don’t know where to start.”
That’s where Lutz comes in. After meeting with music professors and instructors to discuss a department’s needs, she likes to meet with the school’s president or chancellor and develop a plan to help the school buy the necessary equipment. If the institution in question seeks to become an All-Steinway School, which Millikin has been since 1999, at least 90 percent of the institution’s piano inventory must be Steinways or Steinway products. For her exemplary sales skills as a one-person department, Lutz earned a special designation from Steinway & Sons in December 2010 – the Partners in Performance Award. Given each year to only one institutional sales department in the country, the award recognizes outstanding performance in areas such as product knowledge and customer service.
In addition to her busy career and family life, Lutz enjoys serving as director of music at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sherman. “As a piano performance major, I also took organ and choral conducting so I could work in churches to supplement my income,” Lutz says. “Now that I’m a church musician, it’s amazing how I’ve had to draw on all of that learning so many years later. Steve Widenhofer was my organ teacher, and if you ask him, he’ll tell you that he thought I’d never learn to use my feet on the organ pedals!”
Margaret Allen Friend, associate editor of Millikin Quarterly magazine, dreams of owning a Steinway someday. She has contributed to Quarterly since 2004 and joined the alumni and development team in 2010 as class notes editor for the magazine.