MARLBORO—In a historic moment for two venerable Southern Vermont institutions, Marlboro Music and Marlboro College have agreed on a new 99-year lease.
This ensures that, for generations to come, Marlboro Music will remain on the beautiful, 500-acre campus that has been its only home since its inception in 1951.
“This new lease codifies an already strong relationship, and gives us stability for a century to come,” Marlboro Music manager Philip Maneval said in a news release.
“Having Marlboro Music on our campus for the past 68 years has been a source of great pride,” Kevin Quigley, president of Marlboro College, said in a news release. “We admire their dedication, teaching, and discipline in developing many of the world’s greatest musicians and we enjoy their wonderful performances during the summer. We are delighted to have taken these steps to strengthen our relationship with them.”
Since its founding, the Marlboro Music School and Festival has held its world-acclaimed summer program for leadership training in music on the leased campus of Marlboro College, a progressive liberal arts institution founded in 1946 and devoted to intensive, independent learning in a collaborative and self-governing community.
Over the past seven decades, this dynamic relationship has enriched the region and provided a model for how nonprofit organizations can work together to achieve mutual goals in cost-effective ways.
“This remarkable partnership is built upon a shared commitment to innovative educational approaches and close collaboration between teacher and student,” Quigley said. “The expanded partnership comes at a crucial time for the college and speaks to the value of community collaborations at every level.”
The new 99-year lease commits the College and the Music School to explore new programs of mutual benefit, such as internships for Marlboro students during the summer season and Marlboro Music artists-in-residence at the college.
However, the most immediate outcome of the collaboration will be a major building project on the college campus.
In May, the music school and college expect to break ground on two new buildings on the campus, to be owned by the college and used by both the college and the music school.
The Jerome and Celia Reich Building and a new residence hall are being designed by award-winning, Minnesota-based architects Joan Soranno and John Cook at HGA.
The Reich Building will house a music library as well as offices, social spaces, and chamber music rehearsal studios for the music school that the college will use as classrooms throughout the school year.
Similarly, the residence hall will house young musicians each summer and college students from September through May.
“Both buildings will generate excitement within our communities and will command attention nationally,” Maneval said in a news release. “Our ultimate goal is that these buildings will advance our organizations’ respective missions for many decades to come, while providing a powerful example for reimagining the Vermont country aesthetic that we all love, and which makes Potash Hill such a unique and compelling place to study, whether music or the liberal arts.”
This $12.7 million project was initiated by a major bequest from the estate of Jerome and Celia Reich; generous support by Dunard Fund USA; donations from trustees, friends, and donors of Marlboro Music; and additional grants and contributions to Marlboro Music and Marlboro College still to be raised.
Completion of the project is expected by June 2021, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary celebration of Marlboro Music and the 75th anniversary of Marlboro College.
Maneval sees the building project as initiating an exciting new chapter in the historic relationship between these two prominent Marlboro-named institutions.
“Through our various sources of funding, Marlboro Music is going to put up 85 percent of the income for the new buildings,” Maneval told The Commons. “However, to go ahead with the project we wanted a new commitment from the college that we were secure on the campus.”
In the past, Marlboro Music had been coasting on a series of 5- to 7-year leases. Since it now was about to invest heavily in the college infrastructure, Marlboro Music requested a much longer lease.
Although the commitment between both Marlboro Music and Marlboro College has always been strong, there were also a few on both sides who were unsure what the future would hold and whether the collaboration should remain part of it.
“It was never a sure thing if we could or should stay at Marlboro College,” Maneval says. “Some voices questioned that maybe we would be better off elsewhere.”
To some degree this uncertainty limited what Marlboro Music felt it could expect from the college and how much they could invest in the campus. The new 99-year lease put all doubts aside.
Maneval notes the the two institutions have had long, almost simultaneous, histories together. Marlboro College was founded in 1946 and the first Marlboro Music festival was in 1951.
“The origins of the festival, in fact, were the result of Marlboro Music founder Rudolf Serkin helping out the new college,” Maneval says.
“Walter Hendricks, the first president of Marlboro College, was a big music fan, and he knew Serkin had a home in Guilford. He invited him to help raise funds for the fledgling college by giving a benefit concert. Not only did Serkin agree, but he fell in love with the campus, and saw it as a great place to bring people to study chamber music.”
It was not merely the beauty of the surroundings, however, that attracted Serkin to the place.
“There were, and still are, many buildings on the campus, such as five old barns made of old seasoned wood, which have great acoustics for playing chamber music,” Maneval says. “Serkin jumped at the chance of using them, and Hendricks was delighted at the idea. This was the beginning of what turned out to be quite a remarkable collaboration.”
Maneval feels that the new 99-year lease and building project inaugurates a new phase of that collaboration.
The architects at HGA have envisioned a two-year construction for the new building project. Both structures will be built into the hillside and have fine views of the beautiful vistas surrounding the campus. Much care has been taken to respect the special landscape of Vermont.
The schematic design phase of the building project is nearly finished and site prep will begin this summer. The first building to be constructed will be the new residence hall, replacing the old dormitory. Since its housing is needed when Marlboro Music is in session, the demolition can’t start until after the music season. The new building then needs to be completed by the time next year’s music festival begins.
The 11,000 square-foot Reich Building will include three larger chamber-music rehearsal rooms built with acoustics in mind. Currently many of the rehearsals have had to take place in the less than ideal acoustics of classrooms.
“These are the top players in the world who come to Marlboro Music and they are used to ideal working spaces,” Maneval says.
A new era
The Reich Building will also include meeting rooms where musicians can gather. Since a central component of the festival is the social interaction of its participants, these spaces will prove essential.
While much of the Reich Building will revert to Marlboro College when college is in session, the new library will remain part of Marlboro Music year round.
“I doubt if many people know this, but Marlboro possibly holds the largest collection of chamber music scores in the country, if not the world,” Maneval says. “Currently they are kept in a room with no fire protection. Obviously this new library is much needed. Many of these scores are out of print, and some are annotated by legendary musicians who have passed through Marlboro, like Pablo Casals.”
Maneval feels Marlboro Music is entering a new and exciting era.
“We have just appointed a new co-artistic director, Jonathan Bliss, who has many new youthful ideas to bring to the school and festival,” he says. “We also have a new young board of directors, headed by Christopher Serkin, Rudolf’s grandson.
“Having grown up in the area, Serkin knows the place well, and he works very effectively with the board. Serkin was instrumental in negotiating the new 99-year lease.
“I also must give credit to Richard H. Saudek, chair of the college Board of Trustees at Marlboro College, for helping make this happen.”
Maneval believes that Marlboro is a special place that engenders loyalty.
“The school and music festival have had some members coming for 25 years,” he says. “There is nothing remotely like Marlboro Music anywhere. Here musicians with high artistic standards join together as a family in a beautiful locale. We are lucky to have helped guarantee such a phenomenon for a century more to come.”