The University of Southern Maine is poised to reach a longtime goal of relocating its music department from Gorham to its main campus in Portland thanks to a private donation of $10 million.
A move to a new facility in Maine’s largest city would represent “a huge leap forward for USM,” department director Alan Kaschub said.
“Relocating to a purpose-built facility in Maine’s largest city is going to increase the visibility of our program,” said Kaschub, adding that it will improve teaching and learning and help recruit top performing students.
The monetary gift comes from D. Suzi Osher, a music lover and longtime friend of the university. The facility will be named The Dr. Alfred and D. Suzi Osher School of Music at the University of Southern Maine, after Osher and her late husband Dr. Alfred Osher, who was a practicing oral surgeon in Biddeford for many years.
“The School of Music is one of USM’s signature programs of excellence and it’s also one of our best-kept secrets,” said USM President Glenn Cummings in a statement. “Suzi Osher’s gift, in combination with a $5 million gift from the Crewe Foundation earlier this summer, will help ensure that the long-held dream of a new Center for the Arts becomes a reality — and the outstanding School of Music is a secret no more.”
The funds should be enough for the university to execute a long-held plan to move the music department to a new location between Bedford Street and Deering Avenue on the Portland campus. The school could break ground on the new building in 2023, pending approval by the university Board of Trustees and the City of Portland.
Dan Sonenberg, the USM School of Music’s director of composition studies, said the dream of moving to Portland has been around “long before I arrived at the school in 2004.” He thinks it will broaden the school’s appeal to prospective students.
“I think very often events at the School of Music don’t really reach people’s radar because there is so much culture available right in Portland,” Sonenberg said. “But there isn’t a music conservatory, offering essentially nightly concerts and events, and that’s a hole we are all very eager to fill.”
The proposed new facility in Portland will include a performance hall with roughly 200 seats, plus rehearsal spaces, studios and an art gallery. A sizable loading dock should help make moving equipment for recitals and concerts easier.
“This facility will feature fantastic acoustics, state of the art technology and inspirational learning environments,” Kaschub said. “The community that comes to campus to experience performances and exhibits will look at this vibrant university in a whole new light.”
USM’s School of Music — where roughly 150 students are enrolled — has long operated in Gorham’s Corthell Hall. The theater department and some music classes would still be held on the Gorham campus after the proposed move.
The donation is the largest in the university’s history. The Oshers have also given large monetary donations to Maine Medical Center, the Children’s Museum of Maine, the YMCA, the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine and Tufts Dental School.