GORHAM — I go to a lot of concerts.
As the interim director of the University of Southern Maine School of Music, I attend dozens of concerts a year that feature our faculty and students.
As a patron, I attend concerts outside USM in the fabulous, artistic oasis of southern Maine.
As a performer, I play trumpet in dozens of concerts a year throughout Maine.
As a parent, I attend school concerts and other performances to see and hear my children perform.
As I look around the room at these performances, I often wish everyone were aware of all of the USM connections.
It is clear when the performance is one of the more than 100 concerts produced each year by the School of Music that we are key players in making music happen in Maine. What often isn’t clear is how important USM is to the performances that are not our own.
At the end of March, I played a wonderful concert of the Mozart Mass in C with the Maine Music Society in Lewiston. Ten members of the orchestra and three of the four soloists were USM alumni.
In May, I attended Portland Ovations’ premiere of USM Professor Daniel Sonenberg’s “The Summer King.” Not only was the composer from USM, most of the orchestra members were either faculty or alumni. This orchestra played some of the most challenging music that will be performed in Portland this year and did a better job than many big-city orchestras would have.
Last month, I heard the band Micromasse at Salvage BBQ and enjoyed a trio that was two-thirds USM alumni.
At my son’s recent middle-school band concert, I saw both the band and orchestra in the confident hands of music education alumni from USM. Even the student teacher was a graduating senior from our program!
These alumni earned their degrees at an excellent School of Music that is part of an excellent university. That university is situated in the perfect location to provide real-world experience, networking and growth for all of its students, regardless of their major.
Many people have asked me, “What is a ‘metropolitan university’?” At USM, it means that the Portland area is our most important classroom. It means that our music students network with other musicians in a city with a proud and dynamic artistic tradition. They learn from professors who are not only leaders in this community, but also from the community itself.
Our music education majors start working in southern Maine classrooms from their very first semester. Our performance majors play in venues all over the region. Our composition students write for new music concerts both on and off campus.
The fact is that I would love for you to come to Gorham this year and hear our faculty and students perform on our stages. You would be amazed! Even if you don’t, though, you’ll still be hearing our students, faculty and alumni in Portland, Lewiston and beyond.
USM has challenges – there is no question. The fact is, all public universities are facing challenges. USM is getting a lot of press, and not all of it is good. The bad press is eclipsing the good press, and that is frustrating to those of us who know just how much good news there is.
Our biggest challenge moving forward is to find a way to constantly remind our community how valuable we are. All of us in southern Maine need to pay attention to the good things this university provides.
This summer, I urge you to read the programs at your summer theater performances carefully. Talk to the musicians who are playing at your favorite venues. Talk to the music teachers who teach your children.
Come to a summer camp concert in Gorham. Find one of the 200 children who perform in our Youth Ensembles.
Talk to members of the Casco Bay Concert Band or Choral Arts Society.
Enjoy a couple of drinks at Blue and ask where the musicians are from. Chat with the members of the Portland Jazz Orchestra after a set at One Longfellow Square. Stick your head over the wall of the orchestra pit for “Rigoletto” at PortOpera.
When you realize the USM connections, you begin to understand the value of a metropolitan university.
— Special to the Press Herald