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Berkshire Music School Looks to Update Campus

March 12, 2012 : The Berkshire Eagle, by Tony Dobrowolski

PITTSFIELD – The Berkshire Music School has obtained $130,000 in matching grant funds to determine how to bring its 140-year-old campus on Wendell Avenue up to current standards.

The latest piece is a $5,000 systems replacement matching gra nt from the Cultural Facilities Fund, which is administered by the Massachusetts Cultural Co uncil in conjunction with MassDevelopment.

The school will use the funding to undertake a 20-year capital needs assessment of mechanical systems and infrastructure concerns at its facility, which consists of an historic home and carriage barn that both were built around 1870.

“We've got two very old buildings on our campus,” said Berkshire Music School Exe cutive Director Tracy Wilson. “They have old foundations, old roofs, an old oil burning furnace in the main house, and dormers that cause us trouble.

“We’re going to bring in a team of experts to look at the two buildings top to bottom and lay out a plan for the next 20 years to systematically replace capital items,” she said. “It will give us a well-researched plan so we can do what we need to do to keep these historical buildings vital and safe.”

After originally applying for the grant in 2009, the Berkshire Music School received a $55,000 matching grant from the Cultural Facilities Fund that was slated for capital expenses. The total amount of each grant added to the matching funds needed to obtain them equals $130,000.

She described the $5,000 grant as a “total surprise, an added gift.” The school was able to raise the $5,000 to match the grant funds with a donation from the Berkshire Bank Foundation.

The Berkshire Music School, located next to the Central Berkshire District Court building, is located in a downtown historic district. The buildings have an interesting and colorful history.

During the early 20th century, the property belonged to Allen H. Bagg, a five-term Pittsfield mayor, who donated Clapp Park to the city of Pittsfield in 1919 in memory of his first wife, Mary Clapp Bagg, who died in 1916 (the Clapps were one of the richest families in Pittsfield). Bagg married his second wife, Sadie Porter Bagg in 1920, and the couple died in the Wendell Avenue residence 24 hours apart in August 1942. Sadie Bagg suffered a heart attack when her husband passed away.

Bagg and his second wife traveled extensively around the world before World War II, and amassed a considerable art collection that was on display in the Wendell Avenue home, but was sold at auction to settle his estate. Berkshire cultural leader Winnie Davis Long Crane, one of the incorporators of Tanglewood, purchased the Bagg property in 1943 and moved the Pittsfield Community Music School, which she had founded in 1940, to the residence. The school was renamed the Berkshire Music School in 2002. The school converted the carriage barn, which is located behind the main residence, into a recital hall in 1996.

Crane, a piano soloist for the former Pittsfield Symphony Orchestra, guided the Berk shire Music School for 37 years, and provided an endowment that continues to support the institution. But the proceeds of her endowment did not provide any funds for capital needs.

“I think some things are really good and others need to get done,” Wilson said, referring to the school's current infrastructure needs. “We did some of the most urgent things with the first grant. This is going to be the next step.”

© Copyright 2012 The Berkshire Eagle.