When a group of musicians fled war-torn Europe and settled in Vermont, their earnest desire was to share their passion for classical music. In 1952 Louis Moyse, a pianist and flautist, and Blanche Moyse, a violinist, co-founders of the Marlboro Music Festival, started the Brattleboro Music Center to promote the love and understanding of music through performance and education. The BMC teaches classical music to children and adults, with performance and lessons in voice, instruments, and chorales.
Its home for years was a former convent, whose cell-like bedrooms became teaching spaces. Acoustical privacy was non-existent, infrastructure fragile, and recital space limited and of poor quality, impacting performance opportunities and creating obstacles to effective teaching.
“For years, we had been playing in this place that felt completely demoralized,” said BMC co-founder Judith Serkin.
After years of seeking a new home, the BMC purchased a former school in 2016 and converted it to music studio space. A small addition on the front of the school created a recital hall and lobby space and unified it with the new performance space. Careful use of funds during construction allowed the Center to build the performance hall originally planned for a second phase.
The performance hall was designed for the acoustical needs of classical chamber music – a tall square-sectioned volume with varied interior surfaces, absorptive rear wall and a projecting balcony. The hall is similar to the palace chambers where the music was originally composed for. Acoustics were the primary driver for all systems including roof and wall assemblies, mechanical systems, vestibules, materials, and furnishings.
Clear finished wood panels were incorporated into the interiors for acoustical reflections and their strong association with string instruments. Regionally sourced barn boards were used for exterior cladding at the chamber music and recital hall spaces. Supporting spaces were clad in an affordable metal siding.
The project has injected new life into this valuable community resource and provided superior rehearsal and performance spaces for students of all ages, a key component of BMC’s mission. It is especially remarkable in the ways it exposes children to classical music, bringing centuries old traditions to life again for a new generation of music lovers.
“Having that concert hall is enormous for us, because we’ve never had anything like it,” Serkin said.
Becker Structural Engineers, Acentech Acoustical Consultants, WV Engineering Associates (MEP/FP), SVE Associates (Civil)