The Berkshire Music School is located in a historic 1875 home and carriage barn on Wendell Avenue in downtown Pittsfield.
The Berkshire Music School is located in a historic 1875 home and carriage barn on Wendell Avenue in downtown Pittsfield. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff / photos.berkshireeagle.com)

PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire Music School is getting a $150,000 boost from the Feigenbaum Foundation to support upgrades to its 19th-century building and administrative costs.

The grant will be paid out at $50,000 per year for the next three years.

"This is the largest singular grant in the history of the Berkshire Music School and we could not be more thrilled," said Tracy Wilson, the school's executive director.

Around 2011, the school received two grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council: a $65,000 matching grant from the Cultural Facilities Fund for their capital "Tune Up" campaign, and $5,000 matching grant through MCC and Mass Development to conduct a 20-year capital needs assessment of its facility -- a historic 1875 home and carriage barn in downtown Pittsfield -- and mechanical systems.

According to Wilson, a systems replacement plan was developed in the summer of 2012, after doing a "roof to foundation" audit of what the school needs to do to improve its campus and keep it running. The last major improvements were made in 1996, when the current property was restored to create a 90-seat recital hall and some new teaching studios.

Founded in 1940, the nonprofit Berkshire Music School was housed in what was then known as the Peace Party House, located at the corner of Wendell Avenue and East Street. In 1943, Winnie Davis Long Crane bought the property at the current address.

"The Feigenbaums knew the importance of the Berkshire Music School to Berkshire County, and considered 30 Wendell Ave. to be an integral part of what has become a center of the arts in downtown Pittsfield," said Feigenbaum Foundation Executive Director Emil George.

"The Feigenbaums were always so generous and supportive of our cultural community so I began discussions with various people within the foundation about the school's upcoming 75th anniversary in December 2015," said Wilson. "They became as excited as I am about the school's future, so they agreed to this significant grant to support our anniversary plans."

Wilson said the first round of grant funds are being used to pay for the installation of a new gas boiler, as well as a smoke and fire detection system in the main building.

She said the new funding has "made a difference in the way we talk about things at the school. We can plan things we can do to the building."

Next year, school administrators are looking into the installation of new energy-efficient windows.

The systems replacement plan also includes suggested repairs and upgrades under the categories of code and safety issues, site plans, architectural needs, interior finishing, HVAC repairs and electrical and plumbing issues.

Wilson said the late architect Stephen D. Barry, who had served on the school's board, was "very involved" in putting the plan together for the school.

Other issues the school needs to address over the next few years include the installation of emergency lighting around the campus and launching a project to improve drainage, paving and restructuring the school's worn out driveway. Eventually, BMS will have to address repairs to its historic slate roof, which Wilson said will be "pretty expensive."

As for school programs and instruction, Wilson said donations are still rolling in after the annual music marathon weekend, held earlier this month. The fundraising goal for that event is $12,000.

Additionally, the school has hired Amy King as its new marketing director to assist with planning for the 75th anniversary celebration and ongoing marketing needs.

She said the anniversary events will likely include a gala and an alumni event.

"We're a music school, so we should make a lot of noise," Wilson said.

For more information about Berkshire Music School, call (413) 442-1411 or visit berkshiremusicschool.org.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239.
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink