At Seven Stars We Are
About • History
Located in rural Sharon, Vermont, the Seven Stars Arts Center (SSAC), formerly Vermont Independent School of the Arts, is housed in an historic, 1800s Baptist church that has since served the town as grange hall, healing center, and community meeting space. SSAC was founded in 2002 in response to widespread budget cuts in public school music education. The first Seven Stars board of directors had a vision to provide affordable, accessible music and arts education that would meet the needs of students and families that wanted to pursue the study of instrumental music.
Once established, SSAC has quickly grown from a music education resource into a bustling, diverse arts hub for the Upper Valley region. Today, Seven Stars Arts Center provides private musical instruction in over 14 different instruments, from classical to world music, and is a rare resource for the study of specialized voice and instrumental styles including Renaissance recorders, Cape Breton fiddling, and Caribbean Steel Pan ensembles. SSAC hosts several ensembles including the Vermont Girls Choir, Vermont Chamber Artists, Ensemble Zephyrus and the Panhandlers. The organization also offers a growing catalog of classes in the arts of tai chi, dance, Japanese calligraphy, drawing, yoga, watercolor painting, and more. In the building’s performance space the organization hosts a variety of music and dance performances, art shows, meetings, family crafting time, and community events, drawing diverse groups and organizations to gather in this historic space.
The region served by the Seven Stars Arts Center enjoys a long history of commitment to the arts and music. The area supports numerous individual music teachers, school programs, musical organizations, and committed amateurs. However, because these musical resources are dispersed throughout a predominantly rural area, there is a need for a center where people can come together to develop their artistic knowledge and skills. Funding for music and arts programs in many area public schools has been severely curtailed. As a result, high student-to-teacher ratios are not able to adequately meet the individual needs of the students. Artistic choices are also limited within these programs without a strong influence of diverse world cultures. Seven Stars Arts Center offers a variety of lessons and programs for music students of all ages whose school or individual study programs have not provided a sufficient opportunity to meet and work together musically. As part of Seven Stars Arts Center’s educational mission and its outreach program, its goal is to reach underprivileged students of all ages by providing tuition assistance when possible to students who would not otherwise be able to enroll in Seven Starts Arts Center’s programs.
Seven Stars Arts Center, Inc. does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation in its admissions or administrative policies.
Seven Stars Arts Center, Inc. is a Physically Accessible Building
The Seven Stars Arts Center began its life as the brainchild of Scott Paulson, a multi-instrumentalist music teacher who had been teaching programs in many areas of central Vermont, often in several school districts simultaneously. Paulson was frustrated by the lack of emphasis and time allotted musical and artistic pursuits in many schools. He dreamed of a center where students who had the desire could be immersed in the arts without the constraints of large student groups trying to learn different instruments simultaneously…in one half hour per week.
Paulson had the occasion to see the vocal group Village Harmony directed by Larry Gordon, and was awestruck. The level of musicianship of the group members was very high, but more than this, it was obvious that being part of the group had had a dramatic and profound effect on these young people. These students were singing their hearts out, with power and confidence. Working so intensely to prepare for concerts obviously had also forged strong bonds between members.
Paulson realized at this point that this is what he had been looking for; an opportunity to impact students positively and dramatically. He approached Larry Gordon about adding a larger instrumental component to Village Harmony. Gordon liked the idea and offered a plan for sharing space in The 7 Stars Center, an old grange hall in Sharon, Vermont, which Gordon was buying for Village Harmony’s headquarters and camp location.
The deal for village Harmony to purchase the 7 Stars eventually fell through and as Paulson had already moved into the building, he stayed, and in May of 2000 registered the trade name “Vermont Independent School of Musical Arts.” Paulson began teaching lessons and running Jazz and Pop bands and eventually Caribbean Steel Drum ensembles, his pet project.
Bringing in other teachers, parents and community members, the organization was incorporated as a nonprofit on March 1, 2002. At this point the “musical” was dropped from the business name to open the way to offer other disciplines of the arts. The board then began the process of pursuing 501(c)3 federal tax exemption and was granted this status on May 7th, 2003.
The School was able to purchase the Seven Stars building and property in December of 2006 and has many plans to make the facility a true center for the arts! Centrally located in Sharon, just off Interstate 89, the structure began its life as a church in neighboring Norwich and was moved by oxen to its present location around 1910. With teaching spaces on the first floor and a large auditorium on the second floor, the building has the potential to be a first-rate home for all our activities, including performances, instruction, exhibits, and workshops involving various aspects of the arts.
Since acquiring the facility, we have remodeled the entryway by creating a new foyer, painting the landings and stairs, and replacing aged exterior lanterns, much of it paid for by volunteer labor and donations. The second floor auditorium has been completely repainted. A total of thirteen different persons volunteered 232 hours to patching, plastering, priming, and painting. A local hardware store kindly sold us paint at a 25% discount. The total cost of the painting project, thanks to the huge volunteer effort, was $535; the original estimate for the job had been nearly $3600! Other improvements have ranged from restoring the flower gardens to current improvements being made to the stage area, including provisions for additional storage space.
Again, we are grateful for so much of the work being done on a volunteer basis.
We’re confident that the Seven Stars Arts Center will become a top notch performance center where people of all ages can meet, enjoy, and work together in the arts.
Students with financial need can apply for scholarship for partial tuition for lessons or classes. The process is confidential.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to your teacher for an application.
Seven Stars is a physically accessible building.
Making Art Affordable
A Place To Gather
For All Ages
A Concert Hall
Feeding The Soul