Manchester Community Music School was founded in 1983 as the Greater Manchester Center for Arts & Music, located at 79 Dow Street. The school’s roots stemmed from the Egmont Center for the Arts established in 1981 and the Greater Manchester Youth Orchestra established in 1982, housed at 32 Trenton Street (directly across the street from our present location!). The Music School encompassed both of those organizations in addition to providing a regular schedule of instruction in private and group lessons in voice, many instruments, theory and music history, dance, drama, and Suzuki piano and violin. Founders Sam and May Gruber dreamed of a community music school for Manchester youth and saw that dream fulfilled.
Over the next 7 years, private lessons were added on an increasing number of instruments and an early childhood arts program was introduced. While the school officially moved to 79 Dow Street in fall of 1985, on April 16th, 1986 the first board meeting was held at the Trenton Street location. Later that same year the school joined the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.
On July 12th, 1992 the board decided to change the school’s name to the Manchester Community Music School (MCMS) to better reflect what the school was all about. We also added the Manchester Chamber Players, through which faculty members performed free and low cost concerts throughout the Greater Manchester area.
As the school continued to grow, it out grew the Dow Street space, and in 1993 MCMS settled into the fifth floor of 83 Hanover Street. Grand pianos were delivered via crane through the windows as board members and friends finished the drywall and painting. The space served 200 students well, and was appreciated for its intimacy and coziness.
Over the next ten years, MCMS grew, taking over the fourth and fifth floors at 83 Hanover Street. “Cozy” became “cramped”. Trumpets were drowning out the violin lessons, and teachers and staff were sharing tight quarters. The studios and halls of MCMS were literally overflowing with music. It was time to find a permanent home to accommodate the school’s growth for years to come. Coincidentally, Mount Saint Mary Academy, a private, nonprofit elementary school, was experiencing similar growth issues. The leadership of both organizations saw the value in forming a strategic partnership to share the same facility, while remaining distinct educational institutions. So in 2003, MCMS moved once more to its current facility at 2291 Elm Street, the former Notre Dame College classroom building.
Once again the school grew and expanded adding several more programs including Music’s on the Menu. This downtown brown bag lunch concert series, a joint presentation of MCMS and Grace Episcopal Church, held it’s inaugural concert “Piano for Our Times” on October 19, 2005. The program encouraged concertgoers to bring their lunch and enjoy an hour of musical excellence. This program is now in its ninth year and has become a staple in the music community.
In 2006 the Music School broke new ground with its first annual Gala event “Hot Jazz, Cool Tunes” held at C.R. Sparks in Bedford, NH. This annual signature event – Share the Music Gala – brings the community together to raise funds for music education programs and our financial aid fund.
Also in 2006, the music school launched the only Music Therapy program in the state at a community music school. The Music Therapy program has grown to include 5 Board-Certified Music Therapists, including one of two Neurological Music Therapists in NH. To date, MCMS has served over 1,800 special needs students. We provide music therapy services through partnerships with over 20 social service agencies, public schools, assisted living facilities and hospitals bringing music therapy services to their clients and students. MCMS has the largest Music Therapy program in the State of New Hampshire.
In August 2010, the school renamed the Recital Hall in honor its founders. May and dozens of her family members were present for the dedication of the May and Sam Gruber Recital Hall. This was truly a celebration of their legacy, and of the world of music education they founded.
Today, MCMS serves over 1,200 students each year – from babies to 100 years young – with high quality, accessible music education for diverse populations across NH. Programs include private and group music lessons, Suzuki instruction, early childhood classes, summer community band, and summer music camps. Our NHYE is the largest youth ensemble program north of Boston with 3 orchestras, jazz ensemble, community wind ensemble, and community summer band.
Core to our mission, MCMS offers financial assistance to those who would otherwise not be able to participate in the Music School’s programs. Since our founding in 1984, MCMS has awarded over $1,395,000 in need-based financial aid to over 5,500 students.
“Community” is at the heart of our name, and we are proud to partner many organizations in our community. MCMS has music education partnerships with several schools in Manchester and works in harmony with music educators throughout New Hampshire. We value our partnerships with fellow arts organizations, and have become a nucleus for many fellow arts and education organizations. We employ 50 faculty, 10 staff and have a 9 member Board of Directors. We are proud to present 5 free concerts to the community each year. There is truly something for everyone here at MCMS.
We are proud and humbled to have earned two major statewide awards for music education excellence: “Champion in Action for Arts and Culture” Award from Citizens Bank and WMUR-TV, and “Best Musical Education in NH” award from Parenting NH.
As we reflect on the past 36 years of building a home for music, we are grateful for the support of thousands of students, parents, musicians, donors and community members who have empowered the Music School to fulfill our mission of:
Changing Lives through the Power of Learning, Sharing and Making Music.