BRATTLEBORO—It was a slightly unconventional grand opening for a slightly unconventional institution, but when you have fulfilled a dream that was 40 years in the making, you can celebrate any way you want.
And that’s how Johann Sebastian Bach rode into the Brattleboro Music Center’s new concert hall on the back of a Harley.
After four decades of trying to come up with a replacement for their “temporary” home on Walnut Street, BMC celebrated the move into a spacious and beautiful new home off Guilford Street near Living Memorial Park.
“It’s so thrilling,” said BMC co-founder Judith Serkin. “Having that concert hall is enormous for us.”
All those years of having to make do, as the BMC tried to conduct classes in a less than acoustically perfect former convent, have given way to 15,000 square feet of space.
There’s a 270-seat concert hall — the town’s first purpose-built music space since the Brattleboro Opera House was built on Main Street in the late 19th century.
There’s a smaller, 70-seat recital hall that can also be used as rehearsal space for choral groups as well as orchestras.
And there are a bunch of soundproofed studios for the more than 400 students who take classes at BMC; studios where the sound won’t bleed over into neighboring spaces.
So seeing Bach, portrayed by BMC board member Jim Maxwell, riding in on the back of former Brattleboro Fire Chief David Emery Sr.’s Harley was in keeping with the exuberance of the day.
“We’re not your typical music center. We think of ourselves as ‘playful, yet refined,’” said BMC Managing Director Mary Greene. “We take good music seriously, and the preparation of young musicians very seriously, but we enjoy ourselves as we do it.”
Even as the hoopla of a ribbon-cutting was going on at one end of the building, music classes were happening in the new studios.
“There’s already an energy to this place,” Greene said. “There’s so many people in this community that waited a long time to have a music hall and a music education center. For us to be the ones who have celebrated it and to help make it happen is a real honor.”
While BMC still plans to have some of its bigger shows in downtown venues, such as the Latchis Theatre, Greene said more of the center’s programming, including its chamber music series, will be in its new performance space.
“Brattleboro is a great arts town, but it’s never had a facility like this until now,” she said.
Ground was broken last fall on the project at the site of the former Francis Hicks School, built in the 1950s. The last tenant in the space, the Winston Prouty Center, sold the building to BMC in July 2016 for $525,000. Renovating the school building took about seven months, Greene said.
While BMC has a shiny new home, there is still one final phase of the “Make a Place for Music”fundraising campaign to be completed.
The fundraising committee that raised nearly $5 million for this project is now working on raising $430,000 so BMC can fully outfit its new home with an array of furnishings and equipment, refurbish pianos and other instruments, and create endowments.