Brattleboro Music Center breaks ground at former Winston Prouty campus
BRATTLEBORO >> After decades of effort, the Brattleboro Music Center will finally realize its dream of a new home. The BMC took ownership of the former Winston Prouty campus on July 8, 2016, and the official groundbreaking occurred on Sept. 15.
"This new facility will anchor a part of the community in a way we've hoped for for so long," said Mary Greene, the BMC's managing director and a former member of the board of trustees. "The BMC is not some precious exotic place. It serves this community. Its story is the impact of music on people of all ages."
Blanche Honegger Moyse founded the BMC in 1952, according to the organization's website, because "she sought to create an institution that would 'promote the love and understanding of good music through performance and education and make it a vital part of the community.'"
Now that the organization will be moving, Greene said, people are sending her copies of letters from the 1960s addressed to friends of the BMC asking for donations, evidence of the community's support from earliest days.
The more recent history of the BMC's journey to this point starts in 2006 when a generous board member, Janet Wallstein, purchased the Church building on Flat Street "to hold our place as the board raised funds," Greene said. "After careful consideration, we hired Scott Simons Architects out of Portland, Maine, because they have experience with designing spaces for music. They spent days at the BMC monitoring activities in order to learn how best to design a home for music."
Then the 2008 recession hit.
"We continued to work hard after the recession," Greene said. "The board decided our first commitment was to an endowment, to raise $1 million to secure this organization. We surpassed our goal, raising $1.3 million. And we continued to work toward our plan for the Church building."
Then in August 2011 Tropical Storm Irene hit. The raging waters of the Whetstone Brook flooded Flat Street.
"Irene was an enormous event for all, in this town and throughout Vermont," Greene said. "We looked at the Church building, swallowed hard, did the analysis, and recommitted to carrying out our plans in that location."
Then in 2014 – 2015, the post-Irene federal and state regulations would not support the BMC plans for the Church building, Greene said.
"It was clear we would have to take all that energy and commitment to a different location," she said. "We also learned that our lease on the Walnut Street building, which was up in June 2017, would not be renewed."
The board's building committee re-dedicated itself to finding a location for a proper music campus. Then the Winston Prouty property on Guilford Street came up for sale. The BMC's plans were approved by Brattleboro's Development Review Board in May, and on July 8, they closed on the property.
The BMC has raised $2 million to renovate the Prouty building, Greene said, and needs to raise $1.5 million more.
"We've received a generous bequest from the Harriet and Roland Fisher estate," Greene said. "We've been deeply moved by people's generosity each time we've taken a step toward this goal. Music is clearly that important to this community."
A sign taped to the glass door of the BMC's soon-to-be home says, "Work on this building is supported by a Cultural Facilities Grant funded by the State of Vermont and administered by the Vermont Arts Council. The Cultural Facilities Grant program is overseen by the Vermont Cultural Facilities Coalition, the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Department of Historical Preservation, and the Vermont Historical Society."
A visit to the BMC web site illustrates the various options for becoming involved with music, as listener or performer. The BMC offers a variety of performance groups for adults and youth: the Brattleboro Concert Choir, the Blanche Moyse Choral, the Windham Orchestra, as well as smaller ensembles.
In addition to listings for the concert season and chamber music schedule and traditional music festival, the BMC's Brattleboro Music School, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has programs for toddlers, teenagers, and elders.
"We have programs for home-schoolers, as well as after-school programs, music-in-the-schools programs in which all instruction and instruments are provided," Greene said. "The BMC doesn't turn folks away. If somebody wants to get involved, we try to make it happen. Music is not only for the few. Music is available to all of us."
As one of the founding members of the Brattleboro Music School, cellist Judith Serkin is elated at the prospect of a proper home for all the BMC's programs.
"This move for the music school is, in my opinion, long overdue," she said. "We are very excited at the prospect of having enough space to expand our chamber music program and offer more classes, as well as continue with private instruction — but from now on with actual acoustical consideration. No more rooms that barely separate from each other in sound.
"I think that the whole community will benefit from the new vigor surrounding the music school," she continued, "and there is no question that everyone who goes to recitals and chamber music concerts will appreciate and be thankful for a space that will be designed for just that. Since the old opera house was torn down in the early 1950s, there has not been any space that has been built with music in mind."
With the renovations about to begin, Greene is focused on the future.
"Finally, we'll have a proper rehearsal space and will bring all these groups home," Greene said. "It's been a long and difficult journey, but look at us now."
Contact Nancy A. Olson at email@example.com.
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