The hall was decked with white lights and lush evergreens, but true to form, it was the music that truly set the enchanting tone for the University of Southern Maine School of Music’s annual Scholarship Gala.

“Music has been important to Portland for a long time,” said guest Donald Tuski, president of Maine College of Art, who with his wife, Louise, attended the Dec. 5 event at the Abromson Community Education Center on the Portland campus. “All artists – musicians, actors, poets, writers and designers – make communities better.”

The Tuskis were joined by one of Portland’s greatest supporters of music and education, Dan Crewe of Cumberland.

With carolers strolling throughout the lobbies between sets by the Holiday Jazz Combo and the USM Wind Ensemble, guests at “More Than a Little Night Music” were treated to a lovely evening of talent and tasty cuisine with gourmet food and wine pairings, not to mention an oft-visited espresso and cappuccino bar.

“We are raising money for scholarships for students,” explained Alan Kaschub, interim director of the USM School of Music, who attended with his wife, Michele, who is USM’s coordinator of music teacher education. “It’s tremendously important. These students are in class most of the day and studying all night. These scholarships allow us to bring talented students here and allow them to focus on their studies.”

With over 200 guests in attendance, the show of support for the culturally enriching program was abundant.

“We are very pleased with the turnout,” said Eileen Oberholtzer, music development officer at the USM School of Music. “The kids are very involved in this. We’ve had about 90 students both performing throughout the evening and preparing for this event.”

Fen and Marshall Green of Portland chatted with Robert Russell, professor of choral music, and Manuel Avalos, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Peter Plumb of Portland mingled with Larry and Robin Rubinstein of Scarborough, while Pamela Plumb enjoyed a moment with Carolyn Murray of Falmouth.

“The USM School of Music has a longstanding relationship with the community,” said Daniel Sonenberg, associate professor of music and resident composer. “We are here supporting the students.”

Robert Lehmann, professor of music and director of string studies and orchestral activities, agreed.

“What we do is fueled by so much passion,” he said, clearly proud of his students’ determination and drive. “We have one of the highest credit counts of any degree. We’re looked at as liberal arts, but really, there is much we have to do to ensure students are well prepared for the professional demands of the music world.”

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at her website:

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