Student center doubles as jazz club/opera house/Broadway theatre for Osher Gala

Performances at the gala spanned a wide range of styles including jazz, opera, musical theater, folk, classical, and more.

Bella St. Cyr was a freshman at the University of Southern Maine when the Osher School of Music moved its annual scholarship gala off campus. The gala returned home this year. Now a senior with only a few months left on campus, St. Cyr gave her all in a featured singing role.

“I have absolutely adored my time in this University working with Dr. Malinda Haslett and Scott Wheatley. They have helped refine my technique so much,” St. Cyr said.

The 2023 Osher Gala was held at the McGoldrick Center for Career and Student Success.
The 2023 Osher Gala was held at the McGoldrick Center.

Both instructors who were name-checked by St. Cyr watched proudly as she and her classmates performed at the McGoldrick Center in Portland on December 1. Wheatley was a supportive presence by providing piano accompaniment for several performances.

In addition to his classroom work on the music school’s artist faculty, Wheatley also serves as director of the Osher Chamber Singers. He’s new to the role this year. He was eager for the gala audience to see how much his students have learned in just the past few months, as demonstrated by one number in particular.

“It’s an African American spiritual (‘Ain’t Got Time to Die’) and we do a big, giant slide up to a crazy high note and it sounds really exciting,” Wheatley said.

Ed Reichert shared piano duties with Wheatley and also shared his enthusiasm. Reichert’s specialty as a voice coach is musical theatre. The end of the semester is a busy time for him with so many concerts and recitals on tap. The gala benefits from all the practice.

Nicholas Sutton and Bella St. Cyr sing a duet from the opera "The Crucible" at the 2023 Osher Gala.
Nicholas Sutton and Bella St. Cyr sang a duet from the opera “The Crucible.”

“We just ended a week of auditions for our main stage musical, ‘The Prom.’ So last night, a lot of these students were in final callbacks from 5 to 9:45,” Reichert said. “I’m not exaggerating saying that these kids sounded and acted like they were in New York, auditioning for a Broadway show.”

Students demonstrated their vocal and instrumental skills across a wide range of genres from jazz to classical to folk music. St. Cyr and Nicholas Sutton sang a duet from the opera “The Crucible,” based on Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials. When the program shifted to its spoken portion, St. Cyr once again stepped forward.

In her speech, St. Cyr recounted several of her favorite college memories. She traveled to New York to perform with the USM Choral Union and cried for joy during rehearsals at Carnegie Hall. A research project sent her back to New York for an interview with one of the last living students of renowned music teacher and conductor Nadia Boulanger.

“I absolutely would not have been able to do that without my scholarship and without this University and all the faculty here,” St. Cyr said.

The audience for St. Cyr’s speech was filled with dozens of music school donors. They contributed up front with their admission fee to the gala. A pledge round let many of them multiply their gifts, driving up the grand total to roughly $20,000 to support the Music Talent Scholarships at USM. A sponsorship from the Crewe Foundation accounted for about half of the proceeds.

A jazz combo of Ry Johnson, Jorge Allen, and Miles Plummer perform at the 2023 Osher Gala
Ry Johnson, Jorge Allen, and Miles Plummer (left to right) teamed up as a jazz combo.

Attending the gala is an annual tradition for Dick McGoldrick. He’s built friendships with many of his fellow guests over the last three decades. This is the first year the gala was held in the building that bears his name. The McGoldrick Center for Career and Student Success opened just ahead of the fall semester after years of construction.

“We’re so happy with what’s ended up here,” McGoldrick said. “You walk in here and you see all the students, it’s just incredible what’s going on.”
Ground was broken on the McGoldrick Center during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when public gatherings were prohibited. Meanwhile, the gala carried on with students performing remotely to an online audience in 2020 and 2021. The Cumberland Club in Portland hosted last year’s gala while construction at the McGoldrick Center entered its final stages.

Not far from the McGoldrick Center, another construction project of special interest to the gala crowd is underway. The Crewe Center for the Arts is scheduled to open in 2025. The Osher School of Music will make its new home there.

Megan Marino is one of the most prominent public faces of the campus transformation. After graduating from USM in 2005, she rose to national prominence as a star of the opera stage. Her ties to campus remain strong. She frequently returns to work with students and lend her clout to fundraising efforts.

Megan Marino performs a set of operatic and Broadway favorites at the 2023 Osher Gala.
Megan Marino sang a set of operatic and Broadway favorites.

Marino closed out the Osher Gala by singing a full slate of operatic and Broadway favorites. It was her first time in the McGoldrick Center. A year earlier, she served as emcee at the launch party for the Great University Campaign which raised money for the building’s construction fund.

“That’s a pretty cool thing to be brought in toward the end of a process as something has almost come to completion and then to help to bring it across the finish line,” Marino said. “Then to get to actually walk inside the real building and see how beautiful it is, to see all the students and community coming together in it is pretty cool.”

Marino’s career is the dream that many of the students who saw her are striving to achieve. Bella St. Cyr is one of them. She wants to continue her studies in Classical Voice Performance at the graduate level. Whatever happens after that, there’s no doubt music will be big part of her life.

“I’ve been singing ever since I could walk,” St. Cyr said “I was part of the church choir when I was a little kid and from there on out, I knew that I wanted to be a performer.