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Music center moves toward relocation — and a dream

Nonprofits play musical chairs as Brattleboro Music Center seeks to redesign Prouty property

BRATTLEBORO—The Brattleboro Music Center outgrew its Walnut Street location decades ago, but only last week did the 63-year old organization actualize a dream and sign a purchase agreement for a property on Guilford Street.

Next steps like inspections and permitting have begun at the property, currently owned by the Winston Prouty Center for Child Development, and the BMC has started raising funds for the prospective relocation.

The Prouty Center announced earlier this month that it submitted a purchase and sale agreement for the former Austine School campus. It seeks to relocate to the large campus overlooking Interstate 91 and to develop an arrangement with other organizations similar to a condo association.

BMC’s purchase agreement represents a project 20 years in the making, said Managing Director Mary Greene.

“We’re all a little stunned at this time,” she said.

Among the oldest art organizations in Brattleboro, BMC has occupied a former residence on Walnut Street for decades.

The site, however, presents problems, such as inadequate soundproofing between practice rooms and a steep, curving staircase. The organization’s 80-year-old cellists will appreciate a single-story structure, Greene said.

The building’s space constraints also meant BMC programs like the Brattleboro Concert Choir, the Windham Orchestra, and Blanche Moyse Chorale have had to meet for rehearsals off site.

Artistic director Blanche Honegger Moyse founded BMC in 1952. Today, under the artistic advisement of Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson, the organization consists of numerous performance, participation, and education programs.

Over the years, BMC has attracted professional musicians and other artists to the area. It serves more than 10,000 residents from southeastern Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

“As an organization serving a predominantly rural region where most residents have low-to-modest income levels, the Music Center is committed to keeping its programs financially accessible to all,” Greene said in a news release. “Free school programs, reduced ticket prices, and financial aid, as well as specific outreach programs, help extend the demographic reach of our work as far as possible.”

‘Collaboration is key’

Greene said the Guilford Street property will improve access, provide space for group instruction, feature spaces designed for music and, for the first time, allow BMC to offer percussion classes because the rooms will have proper soundproofing.

“Our new home will include new classroom and studio space, which will make possible more course offerings, expanded programs and intensive coaching,” Greene said. “We are developing the technological infrastructure for recording, composition, and music arranging.”

The organization intends to use as many green and sustainable technologies and building materials in the redesign as it can afford, she said.

Greene said she looks forward to new collaborations between the BMC and local arts organizations in the new space.

“Collaboration is key,” she said.

If all the plans come together, Greene said, the BMC expects to move by the summer of 2017.

“We are grateful for the hard work and dedication of so many generous board members and early donors who helped make this moment happen,” said BMC Board President Jean Brewster Giddings, who also thanked the organization’s board building committee members “for their tireless efforts this spring to find this property.”

Judith Serkin, a founding faculty member of the BMC Music School, added a note of exuberance.

“We have been waiting a very long time for this and are thrilled that we can finally realize our dream!” she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #332 (Wednesday, November 18, 2015). This story appeared on page A1.

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