about the Boston School of Electronic Music

Founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in May of 1972 by Jim Michmerhuizen, BSEM was the first independent school of electronic music in the United States.

Closing in 1978 as the result of a catastrophic fire, BSEM was a focal point for those interested in electronic music synthesis. This site is an attempt to preserve some of the history and culture, and to document that unique moment in the late 20th century...


  • Dartmouth Street, Boston
    The school originally opened as two rooms on the second floor of a brownstone apartment building on Dartmouth Street, just off Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay. The two studios were attached to Jim's apartment, and when Jim and his wife moved to a basement apartment in the same building, the school expanded into what had been their living space, and gained a large, high-ceilinged common area, kitchen, and loft workspace. Later, a large space opened up on the first floor of the building, and this became BSEM's offices. This location served until the school's much-needed expansion in the Summer of 1977.

  • Kilsyth Road, Brookline
    In 1977, due to the need for more studio space to accomodate increasing class sizes, BSEM moved to an old mansion on Kilsyth Road in Brookline, MA, a pleasant Boston suburb. Much of the Summer of 1977 was spent cleaning, stripping wallpaper and repainting the Kilsyth property, as the previous tenants had been members of a punk band known as the Nervous Eaters (apparently, they were also nervous sleepers, sitters, and everything else, as the place was a mess!), and substantial effort was required to make the place presentable for the new students arriving in the Fall semester.

    On the night of January 3rd, 1978, an arsonist ignited an incendiary device under the side porch of the Kilsyth building. BSEM staff members living on the 3rd floor were able to evacuate, and escaped with their lives, but little else. Neighbors and the Red Cross provided coffee and clothing as firefighters put down the blaze. Much of the school's esoteric and historic equipment and facilities were destroyed. Attempts were made to salvage what was left. Several weeks later, the school re-opened in a new location.

  • Highgate Street, Allston
    Although substantially smaller than the Kilsyth property, there was room enough for a formal classroom, office space and two small studios. Unfortunately, the resources were strained, and the school had to close within the year.


Jim Michmerhuizen sent in this image to share:
Unknown synth built by BSEM circa 1974

Jim says about the pic:
    This is a picture of the big synthesizer BSEM built for Wesleyan University around 1974. This was basically Bob Snowdale's initiative; he came to us from W.U. having studied with Alvin Lucier there. Later, of course, Snowdale went on to found Aries.

More to come...

Contact BSEM

BSEM website logo reconstructed from original Lissajous figure image by John Duesenberry on BSEM 1978-1979 Course Catalog.

Created 15DEC2015; Revised 04FEB2016
Contents © 2015 - 2016 Dave Read