EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 29, 2013

The right note: Traditions of the Haverhill Music Centre live on

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Ten music instructors who taught at a popular downtown studio that closed last fall have come together at a new studio to teach people of all ages how to play instruments, perform in front of a live audience and to sing.

Their new “Be Imagine Music Studio” is just a few blocks away from where they previously taught.

“Since we opened in November everybody has been enjoying the new studio as we have a bit more space and it’s in a new facility,” said studio owner Benjamin Goldbaum, who teaches guitar and bass and leads a youth rock band program, just as he did at the Haverhill Music Centre.

For decades young and old made the trek to the Haverhill Music Centre in the heart of Haverhill’s downtown.

It was known as the place to go for sheet music, instruments, accessories and repairs, and also a place where they could learn to play instruments such as the piano, drums, and guitar.

But when the business closed last September after nearly 60 years in operation, its music instructors and their students were left without a permanent home.

Then in November Goldbaum found the answer – a suite in the Burgess Business Center on Essex Street just several blocks from the former Haverhill Music Centre.

“We encourage our students to ‘be what you imagine,’” Goldbaum said about his new studio. “We have some of the most excellent music teachers in the area and some of them have been teaching for over 30 and over 40 years and have a large following of students.”

Goldbaum said that when the Haverhill Music Centre closed last September, its owner, Brian Ross encouraged him to open his own studio so that he and the other instructors could continue teaching their many students.

Teachers at the Centre encouraged him as well and followed him to the new location.

“Brian knew that I was full-time instructor and that I’d single-handedly created a youth rock band program that included as many as six bands at a time,” said Goldbaum, 37, of Haverhill.

In all, 10 music instructors including Goldbaum found their new home on Essex Street. Those instructors include well-known guitarist George Fortunato, who Goldbaum took advanced lessons from when he was teaching at the Haverhill Music Centre.

“I recall telling Benjamin that he represented the teaching of music in the area and that it was his to embrace, to lead and to take hold of,” Fortunato said. “I wanted to have a place where I could be part of the community and have a connection to the urban part of Haverhill.”

It took a few months to turn the studio into what Goldbaum imagined it could be.

Goldbaum said Lance Cluster of Boxford, whose son studies trumpet at Be Imagine, helped him build soundproofing panels and suspend them from the band rehearsal room’s ceilings and walls.

“The youth bands used to rehearse in a very small room in the basement of the Haverhill Music Centre and now we have three times the space,” Goldbaum said.

Fortunato says the new studio is spacious and contemporary and is a comfortable setting to teach in.

“The studio has an innovative spark of enthusiasm and excitement that’s infectious,” Fortunato said. “It’s displayed in the teachers’ attitudes and translates into the students. We all generate a vibe where students can realize their potential.”

Last fall, Ross said he was going out of business mostly because of the Internet, his major competitor in the sale of sheet music and music books. Haverhill Music Centre founder Robert Killey opened the store in 1955, Ross said, and when Killey retired in 1994, his daughter took over the business. Ross bought it in 2004. He was familiar with the shop, as he did band instrument repairs for Killey’s customers since 1989.

Goldbaum is particularly proud of his current youth bands, which last year performed at such venues as the Topsfield Fair, Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming and Haverhill’s Make Some Noise summer concert series. More recently, the bands have performed at the Sad Cafe in Plaistow, the Tap Restaurant on Washington Street, the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence and the All Asia Bar in Cambridge, Goldbaum said.

“We’ve also played several events to raise money for charities,” Goldbaum said.

Be Imagine will hold its grand opening on April 6 from 3 to 6 p.m. City officials and members of the public are invited. Goldbaum said he invited Mayor James Fiorentini to the grand opening, which will include live music performances by four youth bands, as well as performances by other Be Imagine students and their instructors.

Be Imagine’s staff includes flute instructor Barbara Hough, guitar teacher George Fortunato, bass and cello teacher Roger Kimball, voice instructor Aliana De La Guardia, percussion/drum instructor Earl Welch, saxophone instructor Clark Zlindra-Short, piano instructor Virginia Lingar, trumpet and brass instruments instructor Neil Flewelling, guitar instructor David Allen, and guitar, bass and youth band instructor Benjamin Goldbaum. Visit Be Imagine online at www.beimaginemusic.com.