2018-03-07 / Front Page

New music center set to open in Moon Dog building


COURTESY / Tristan Bellerive
Ida Mae Specker, a lifelong fiddle player and music teacher from Andover, will soon open a music school on Main Street in Chester. COURTESY / Tristan Bellerive Ida Mae Specker, a lifelong fiddle player and music teacher from Andover, will soon open a music school on Main Street in Chester. CHESTER — The Chester Music Center, a new venue for local music instruction, will open its doors in March 2018 at 295 Main St. in the current Moon Dog Cafe building in downtown Chester.

With this new venture, Chester Music Center owner Ida Mae Specker — who was born and raised in Andover — said she hopes to increase the accessibility and visibility of music in the local community.

The new music center will provide “a space to connect people across genres and generations and offer a positive, empowering experience for students of all ability levels,” said Specker, a lifelong fiddle player with a degree in anthropology who also teaches traditional Appalachian fiddle music and singing by ear, the way she learned.

At this time, the building houses a handful of other music, art, and movement-related organizations: Emily Burkland's Community Art Garden is directly across the hall from the soon-to-be new music studio, in the back of the Moon Dog Cafe space towards the staircase. The building also currently houses a yoga center and Domenica Coger’s SongYard, which offers Waldorf-inspired programs, services, and an indoor play space for children and families.

“There is definitely synergistic energy between the Art Garden and the Music Center. Sama Yoga is also upstairs, so there is movement arts in the building too! I'm very excited about the possible collaborations,” Specker said in an email.

Specker said her music school is a new business, but that she might look into it becoming a nonprofit at some point.

The building is also the current home of the Moon Dog Cafe, although a member of staff at the cafe was advising customers at the counter last week that the Moon Dog would be moving to Bellows Falls in the near future, due to a pending sale of the building in Chester. The owner said recently that she preferred not to discuss the move until details were finalized, because they were waiting to sign a lease.

Specker said she does not plan to take over the cafe's space, but that the music studio will be located on the main floor of the building.

Specker has taught workshops for people of all ages at music festivals, violin studios, libraries, music stores, country fairs, and town halls. In her lessons, she focuses on ear-training, chord progressions, rhythmic structure, and the history and theory of old-time music, she said in a press release.

Her teaching philosophy is grounded in the confidence that “everyone with the desire to learn can succeed at playing the fiddle,” Specker said.

She has also worked extensively in local schools, as an artist-in-residence at Burr and Burton Academy, Maple Street School, Flood Brook Elementary School, and Chester Andover Elementary School.

Specker said she currently offers a beginners’ after-school group fiddle class for children, a family string band jam, an adult beginners’ group class, an intermediate-advanced adult class, and private fiddle lessons.

On Thursdays, Jesse Peters will bring his expertise to the Chester Music Center, teaching guitar lessons in a wide range of styles.

Peters hails from Westminster and has been an integral part of the southern Vermont music scene for many years, according to Specker. Peters grew up in Saxtons River playing primarily rock and folk, but “was bitten by the jazz bug” and studied in Philadelphia, achieving a Bachelor of Arts in jazz performance and a Master of Arts in Teaching in music, Specker said. Since returning to Vermont, Peters has also kept his hand in teaching, maintaining a steady roster of guitar students over the years along with music teaching stints at Westminster Center School, The Compass School and the former Journey School in Chester. Though a player in more modern acoustic and electric styles, Peters has a deep appreciation of roots music and incorporates these idioms into his writing and teaching, Specker said.

Additionally, renowned folk musician John Specker will offer banjo lessons for students with some prior experience.

Ida Mae Specker said that in the future, she hopes to expand the roster of teachers and increase the offerings of the Chester Music Center to include piano, voice, songwriting, and community events.

Specker said she will plan a grand opening soon for the music school. For rates and available time slots or for more information, email ispecker@gmail.com or call (802) 734-7183.

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