USM conductor hopes Carnegie Hall concert will draw attention to school talent

Opera theater

Nicolas Dosman, director of choral studies at the University of Southern Maine, is traveling with dozens of students to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York on Saturday. This is the first time that a group from USM has performed in the famous concert hall. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

For budding singers, Carnegie Hall in New York is the zenith of performance halls. Some spend their lives trying to get there.

“It’s just different from any other space because you know who’s been through that stage. It carries a certain prestige,” said Nicolas Dosman, director of choral studies at the Osher School of Music at the University of Southern Maine.

Dosman knows. He has already sung on the Carnegie stage. He stays with you.

This weekend, however, he will not sing but lead a USM student choir, combined with members of adult community choirs in Portland and South Berwick which Dosman also leads, in a concert performance. nationals in the famous place.

New York-based National Concerts produces collaborations for choirs, bands, and orchestras, primarily at Carnegie Hall, but occasionally in other venues across the United States. Built in the late 19th century in midtown Manhattan, Carnegie Hall has earned a reputation as one of the most sought-after performance spaces, especially for classical and popular music.

This will be the first time a USM ensemble will perform on this stage.

“That’s been one of my goals since I was hired,” Dosman said of bringing a choir to perform at Carnegie Hall. “There are so many talented singers who come through here. The world must know. I want to help put Osher School on the map and use every bit of juice I have to do it.

Dozens of USM students, some of whom graduated last month, will join community choir members from Maine to form the National Opera Chorus. They will sing eight selected pieces on Saturday, behind contemporary opera professionals Alyson Cambridge, David Margulis and Sidney Outlaw. The show will also include selections performed by the Detroit Youth Choir, the West Virginia University Chamber Choir and the National Concert Chorus.


For USM students, they know how important it is, but they also hope their first time on the Carnegie stage won’t be their last.

“I mean, I definitely hope I can get back there,” said Bella St. Cyr, 20, a rising junior from Pownal. “This is the dream.”

St. Cyr grew up singing in choirs and choirs and doing theater in high school. She chose USM because it was close to home and affordable, primarily, but said the school’s music program has an excellent reputation.

“I think the fact that this little public school is going on a trip speaks to that,” she said.

March Steiger of Buxton, who graduated in May and is heading to a graduate program at Portland State University in Oregon, had some experience with USM before choosing to go.

“I had the idea that it was a quality program, but maybe not to the extent that I lived and saw others live,” said the 22-year-old.

Much of that is attributable to Dosman and other faculty members, the students said.

Dosman, in turn, credits the students.

“I learned that so many talented people will come, largely because a big conservatory just isn’t affordable for them,” he said.

The program will soon have a new home which could help attract even more students. Last year, philanthropist D. Suzi Osher donated $10 million—the largest monetary donation ever to USM—to help build a new home for USM School of Music on its campus. from Portland. Construction is underway and should be completed next year.

Jonas Rimkunas, 28, will travel with dozens of other students from the University of Southern Maine to perform at Carnegie Hall. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Jonas Rimkunas grew up in Gorham with music everywhere. His father is a music teacher, choir director and a graduate of USM School of Music, and his mother, he said, is also a great singer. He was a member of the prestigious Boys Singers of Maine.

Still, it took time for Rimkunas to realize that he wanted to make music his livelihood.

“I feel like I had a whole life before this degree,” said the 28-year-old, who graduated last month.

Rimkunas worked in restaurants, a cabinet shop, did landscaping, even built boats, before returning to singing.

“I had joined a barbershop quartet, and it was really fun. We won competitions and started getting gigs, and I just decided I wanted music to be a bigger part of the show again. life,” he said.

In the fall, he heads to a graduate program at the highly competitive Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland.

“I am exceptionally proud of my choice to go to USM,” he said.


The opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall came about through old-school networking, Dosman said. He has known National Concerts executive director Matt Workman for years. They met at a conference and were talking about a USM Chamber Singers music CD.

“I shared the CD with him, and he called me a few days later and said, ‘We have to take you to Carnegie,'” Dosman said.

The concert was supposed to take place in 2020 but was canceled, along with everything else.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure it would happen after that,” Dosman said.

Most of the concerts given by USM students, both the choir and the small group of chamber singers, are thematic. This weekend’s opera concert will be different.

“Most of the students really enjoyed it, but opera chorus is very different from general choral work,” Dosman said.

Steiger explained it this way: “You use your heart a lot more, I guess. I think people are encouraged to sing as if they were soloists but just in chorus, if that makes sense.

Preparation for the show has been underway for weeks. The choir held a preview concert on April 30 in Portland, where they performed every song on the program. The students replaced the professional soloists.

Rimkunas was one of them.

“I’ve sung arias (from Italian opera composers) Rossini and Donizetti, but I can’t wait to hear someone of the caliber (from the Metropolitan Opera House) sing them right in front of me,” he said. he declares.


The program offers selections from traditional 19th-century European operas to George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” to lesser-known works including American composer Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha”.

Dosman, who has worked hard to create a diverse program for the National Opera Chorus, said most audiences know Joplin for his ragtime music.

“I hope this experience inspires these students, especially those who may only know Maine,” he said.

For USM students who have already graduated, Saturday’s performance feels like a real coda.

“It’s weird,” Steiger said. “I feel like I may not see many of these people again, so it’s like a last hurrah with all my people.”

St. Cyr said she missed her sister’s high school graduation to perform at Carnegie Hall. She did, however, get her sister’s blessing.

“She gets it,” St. Cyr said. “Maybe I’ll be back on that stage and she’ll be in the audience.”

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