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Brookline Music School marks 100 years of teaching with performances by 137 students

Performers at the Brookline Music School's centennial celebration on June 9. Photo by Willow Bosworth
June 17, 2024
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More than 100 performers filtered in and out of the Brookline Music School’s Kennard House on Sunday, carrying cellos, violins, and printed sheet music.

As parents, families and community members looked on, the musicians performed four recitals through the afternoon and evening. The recitals, held in the Bakalar Recital Hall, spanned a wide variety of styles and tempos, from solemn vibratos on cellos to intricately-woven piano pieces.

It was the start of a celebration of the nonprofit’s centennial anniversary, with 137 performers, children and adults, there to mark 100 years since the school’s founding.

The school wanted to do something special to mark the milestone, said David Tierney, the school’s executive director.

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“We [didn’t] necessarily want to do just one thing and say, ‘Happy Birthday! We’re done’” says Tierney, who came into his current position this past September after 26 years as the head of Weston’s River School Conservatory and 5 years as head of school at the Cambridge Friends School.

A believer in the power of performance, Tierney described the “100 For The 100th” event having evolved from a student performance into a day-long recital series.

“I’m all about students performing. That’s just my thing. If you go to do music, you should perform. That just completes the process,” he said.

Sunday’s event also saw the debut of the first in a series of musical pieces written by 10 different composers, many of whom are faculty members at Brookline Music School. These pieces, which Tierney anticipates will number in the 20s, will be showcased at events throughout the year.

100 years of teaching music

Founded in 1924 with the aid of Brookline’s public school superintendent, the Brookline Music School moved into its current home, the Hill-Kennard-Ogden House next door to the Lincoln School, in 1994. BMS operates 8 locations located at schools across town.

For Tierney, Sunday’s recital marked a potential turning point for the school, serving to kickstart more collaborative recitals highlighting students from all 8 locations.

“That’s an evolution that’s occurring now” says Tierney. The current model, with 8 different teaching locations, “sounds like it’s great because kids can pop out of their school day and go to a lesson” but it “fractures the community.”

Tierney says the school is planning to shift towards more all-school performances over the next year, replacing solo studio recitals, where students often don’t get to hear other students perform.

Starting young

Of special note to Tierney on Saturday were the students of the ‘Sing Like a Star’ introductory voice class, 4-5 year-old performers who sang classics on Sunday such as “My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean” and “Baby Beluga.”

Tierney recounts how before going on stage students in the ‘Sing Like a Star’ class told him they were afraid to perform. “It’s fun to turn that fear into energy, and that nervousness into excitement,” he said.

“Seeing how much they love this and realizing that we’re making a difference; we touch kids in a deep, unique way” said Tierney.

Mike Emmanouilidis, the grandfather of a student in the ‘Sing Like a Star’ class and husband of BMS board member Susan Emmanouilidis, agreed. “The school is doing a fabulous job, attracting students from four to their 60s” he said.

Emmanouilidis sees the school’s centennial as a sign of more to come, envisioning a Brookline Music School that continues to grow and expand. “Right now, they’re bursting at the seams for space,” he says, adding that he hopes the school “goes on for another 100 years.”

As a member of CoFAB – the Consortium for the Arts in Brookline – Brookline Music School is far from the only performing arts organization across town. Tierney says space is a concern for many of these organizations, and he hopes they can band together to solve this concern.

“Is there the possibility in this town that somehow we can pull it all together and unify all the arts into one larger umbrella – not organization, but at least facility?” Tierney asks.

With an estimated enrollment of around 895 students, Tierney says that BMS needs to continue looking to the future.

“This is the balance always of community arts schools – of serving the immediate needs of the community, but also needing to produce and deliver something that will always not only be needed, but always be there for whoever needs it,” he said.

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