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Inside Brattleboro's Busy Music Center - Cultural Command Post for This Town of 12,000

IT'S a quiet, rainy morning at the Brattleboro Music Center. Inside, the practice rooms lining the hallways are silent. But later this afternoon, when school lets out, the huge creaky house on Walnut Street will become a beehive of children toting instrument cases and teachers trying to keep on schedule. As the day wears on, adults will arrive for voice or piano lessons or music-history class. In the same building, people in paper-strewn offices oversee the music school, the New England Bach Festival, a chamber music series, the community chorus - the list goes on. The house is cultural command post for this town of 12,000.

It's common opinion at the center that all this activity is due to the vision of Blanche Moyse - the Swiss violinist who arrived in Brattleboro in 1948 with her prestigious musical family, the Moyse Trio. The ensemble came to help establish a music school at neighboring Marlboro College, at the request of Adolf Busch, her violin teacher, who had moved to the area with his son-in-law, Rudolf Serkin, and their families.

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From that point, a rich array of musical life - heretofore nonexistent in the Brattleboro region - began to spring forth and gain community support.

``This was Blanche's dream,'' says Jane Williams-Grube, general manager of the Brattleboro Music Center. ``Her great passion for quality classical music was certainly the impetus.''

Moyse herself recalls what went through her mind. She had seen a man in a little town in Switzerland who had a large chorus and organized concerts for the community. ``He did all that, and I thought, `That's wonderful! He's meeting in the country - in a lovely place. He makes music the way he wants. I wish I could do that some day.' When I came here and saw this little town that had nothing at all musically, I thought, `Maybe this is the place to do that.'''

Moyse decided to drop the life of a touring professional and settle here with her husband and four children. The Moyse Trio members helped the Serkins and Busches establish the present Marlboro Music Festival, held each summer.

Moyse opened the Brattleboro Music Center in 1951 ``to promote the love and understanding of music in this area, on both the professional and amateur levels,'' she says. Ten years ago, the music school was added, and it now enrolls over 400 students, from toddlers to senior citizens.

```Accessibility' is one of the key words about classical music in this area,'' says Ms. Williams-Grube. ``If you want to take lessons and perform in an orchestra without any career ambition, you can do it.''

The present building - a former convent - has an air of homeyness to it, with its stuffed furniture, posters of composers on the walls, and in some hallways, the smell of hot food rising up from a church's soup kitchen on the first floor.

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``What's been created here is now a full-blown institution that has a life of its own,'' says Williams-Grube. ``That's a great gift to the community.''

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