The Music Center Opens
On January 12, 1936, Edith McIntosh welcomed the public to the formal opening of the Music Center in a new building at 48 Hillside Avenue, designed for use as a music school. It was reported that nearly 400 people toured the school on its opening day. Edith’s father, Alexander McIntosh, who had a lifetime career in construction, was the consultant-supervisor for building. Edith’s brother-in-law L.C. Dillenback, professor of architectural design at Syracuse University, and husband of her sister Hazel McIntosh, was one of the co-architects. The original program, pasted into a scrapbook, notes the careful design and state-of-the-art features of the building.
“The modified classic design was chosen to express the dignity of a Music Center as well as the restful informality of the studio. The quiet, white-painted brick exterior with its wide, green-shuttered windows suggests an Early American mansion but gives no hint of the spaciousness of the three-storied interior. Within are the ample and adequate-ly equipped foyer, waiting rooms, teaching rooms, study, dressing rooms and cloak rooms. Opening from the foyer and extending the entire width of the building, with an elevated platform at one end and a fireplace at the other, is the hall to be devoted to recitals and other gatherings. One hundred and fifty persons can be comfortably accommodated. Directly below the recital hall and of equal floor, area is the general class room. All rooms are acoustically treated. They are completely air-conditioned by the most modern of systems, providing humidification, filtration and air circulation, as well as heat. Built-in units with prismatic lenses provide a unified distribution of diffused light in the large rooms; indirect lighting fixtures in the smaller rooms.”
One newspaper in 1936 describes the new building as designed modestly, yet luxuriously due to “good taste in furnishings and decorations.” The author continues, “It seems to anticipate every condition or need that may arise in connection with the systematic operation of a conservatory of music, which may be used at one period of the day for instruction in many rooms, later be the scene of a recital and at another time accommodate a banquet, dance or reception.”
The first recital was held by noted Mexican concert pianist Ernesto Berúmen on January 12, 1936. The first of many student recitals was held soon after on February 2. Frank LaForge, famous composer and pianist, presented his first recital in the building on March 15. In addition, The Jeanne Shibley Studio of Dance and drama courses by Lorena Robbins Nutzhorn were established.
From the start, as the Long Island News and The Owl noted, the music center “is already in demand for functions other than those planned by the school of music.” All types of community organizations took advantage of this unique new space. The Central Synagogue of Nassau County began religious services on Friday evenings at the studio. Other activities held at the school building in the first year include meetings of the Mt. Holyoke Club of Long Island, the Rockville Centre Baptist Church, a fashion show by The Park Shop, and a musical by the South Shore Chapter of Hadassah. This tradition of multi-purpose use of the space continued on until the school closed in 1976.