Middlebury music center is humming along

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Community Music Center is gearing up to celebrate its inaugural year with a concert at the Town Hall Theater this Sunday. The music center, which first opened its doors to 91 students at the Middlebury Community House this past September, now offers private and group lessons for 210 students of all levels and ages.
Students there receive instruction in 19 instruments, including the piano, clarinet and violin.
Founder and Executive Director Sadie Brightman says that MCMC’s success in its first year has exceeded her expectations, pointing to the 140 students now enrolled in private lessons as well as the popularity of the center’s group offerings such as the Music Discoveries program for children ages 3 through 5.
“While private lessons represent MCMC’s core offering, group lessons are great for those who are too young for private instruction, or just want to sing in the chorus,” explained Brightman.
MCMC operates out of  the Middlebury Community House, the big yellow house at the corner of Main and Seymour streets that was built in 1816 and given to the people of Middlebury by Jessica Stewart Swift and her brother, Phillip Battell Stewart, in the 1930s. The Community House’s partnership with MCMC has been instrumental in fulfilling Stewart’s vision for the space as a meeting place that enriches the lives of Middlebury’s youth.
Brightman notes that the center’s convenient location in the heart of downtown Middlebury has afforded MCMC the visibility necessary to attract new students.
“The response from the community has been incredibly positive,” said Brightman. “A lot of people have pointed out how perfect this space is for our program.”
Many community members have approached Brightman to express that a program like MCMC is exactly what the community needs. Brightman says that while the Middlebury community’s devotion to athletics is strong, she believes that MCMC has the ability to “round out students’ capacities” by making music a part of their daily lives.
The new surge in interest and high demand for private lessons has prompted the center to increase its staff from 18 last fall to 23 now. MCMC boasts a faculty of highly trained and talented professionals who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and musical disciplines.
Among them is Grammy-nominated flutist Karen Kevra, who began teaching at the center when it first opened in September. Kevra, who also teaches advanced students in Montpellier, says that she loves teaching her beginning students in Middlebury.
“My students are absolutely delightful,” she said. “I look forward to my lessons every week.”
Kevra also praised the work of director Brightman saying, “Sadie has done a phenomenal job. She’s been a delight to work with.” Kevra will be performing two pieces this Sunday, and she expressed hope that the concert would encourage more students to take lessons.
As the center begins its second year of operation, Brightman says there is still ample room for growth. Many of the teachers at the center still have availability to serve more students, and there is still physical space for studio expansion. Brightman also hopes to increase the number of participants in MCMC’s group classes, as well as to encourage more adults to enroll in private instruction.
Additionally, Brightman stresses the importance of continued affordability for the center’s success. The Middlebury Community Music Center is a nonprofit organization that relies on grants and donations from corporate and private donors, in addition to student fees. The center is currently developing a scholarship fund to “make quality music education available to everyone in (the) community.”
In this spirit, and to celebrate the center’s success thus far, the Town Hall Theater will host a benefit concert for MCMC this Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. following a 1 p.m. reception. Tickets are available for purchase through the Town Hall Theater Box Office for $10. The program will feature a wide variety of musical styles, from classical to jazz to roots. Faculty members, special guest performers, and students of all ages and skill levels will perform in collaborative and solo acts.
“A seven-year-old beginning guitarist might be followed by someone who has been performing for years,” said Brightman. “The message is to honor the process of learning music,” she added. “We’re all in this together.” 

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