BRATTLEBORO—On a beautiful July morning, a small crowd gathered on Walnut Street to witness an unusual event — the sight of seven pianos being hoisted from the second-floor window of the Brattleboro Music Center so they could be whisked away in moving vans.
The flying pianos was the grand finale to a project that has been years in the planning and months in the execution — moving the BMC from its cozy quarters on 38 Walnut St. into a new and more spacious location across from Living Memorial Park.
“We are moving joyfully,” said Mary Greene, former BMC board member and its current managing director. “We’ve been in a temporary home on Walnut Street for 37 years.”
As crews from Butch’s Moving & Storage of Brattleboro wrestled with the pianos, Greene noted that the building, a former convent built for St. Michael’s Catholic Church next to its school, was “woefully inadequate” for the current needs of the center.
One of the onlookers was Nora Gordon, a piano student of 22 years at the BMC. She said she will miss the old building because of the great childhood memories it holds for her, but that the new location in the former home of the Winston Prouty Center on Guilford Street is a giant step up.
Greene said working toward a new location hasn’t been easy.
In 2007, the BMC board of trustees committed to start an endowment to raise funds for a new space, but the recession of 2007-08 put those plans on hold.
In 2010, the BMC board re-dedicated themselves to the project, with plans to purchase the Church Building on Flat Street as a new school and performance space.
But flash flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 damaged the Church Building. That, combined with new regulations regarding construction in flood-prone areas, ended that plan.
In 2015, the BMC found out that their lease with St. Michael’s Church for their Walnut Street home wouldn’t be renewed, so BMC began the search again.
Last year, they purchased the building that formerly housed the Winston Prouty School, and renovations began.
Greene said the 2,500-square -foot addition to the building, and the 15 newly-constructed teaching spaces, will give larger ensembles the rehearsal space that wasn’t available at Walnut Street.
In addition, the staggered stud walls sheetrocked to the roofline, and acoustically treated doors, will at last be “honoring brass and percussion in a way we haven’t been able to,” Greene said.
Renovations also include a 77-seat recital hall designed to optimize acoustics, as well as a performance hall that seats 224. Greene said the performance hall is the first building in Brattleboro in more than 150 years to be constructed exclusively for music.
“For people who live, work, teach, and perform here, this is a very moving moment,” Greene said. “There is a wonderful emotional response to the new space, because it acknowledges what they do.”
The new performance and recital spaces will serve as rehearsal and practice venues for Brattleboro Union High School, the Windham Orchestra, the Brattleboro Concert Choir, and the Blanche Moyse Chorale, and Greene hopes they also will inspire shared work with the Vermont Jazz Center.
Greene said BMC will continue to offer a variety of music lessons for both children and adults, including new brass and percussion instruction.