Society Diary: Portland Conservatory welcomes community to new home


The Portland Conservatory of Music faculty concert fundraiser on March 5 was much like a housewarming party for the community music school’s new home at 28 Neal St. in the West End.

“After 26 years of supporting the Greater Portland area, we are proud to have our own home,” said General Manager Jean Murachanian.

The conservatory had been a tenant of Woodfords Congregational Church for 12 years, until there was a boiler failure and resulting flood in November 2020, and it moved. Soon after, of course, the pandemic and online classes arrived.

“It was one thing after another,” said former executive director KE Smith, a Portland board member. “It was a godsend when a woman donated a million dollars to buy this building.”

The parish Presbyterian Church held its last service on Neal Street last Easter, and within weeks the conservatory purchased the church building with the help of the anonymous donation. Fast forward nearly a year to the faculty concert – the first major fundraising event held since the flood, pandemic and relocation, which involved the relocation of 15 pianos.

A dozen teachers performed in the sanctuary-turned-concert hall, including Eleanor Lehmann on violin and her daughter-in-law, Kimberly Lehmann, on viola in their first duet. Another highlight was pianist Jesse Feinberg who performed his Eastern European-inspired compositions ‘Shalom Aleichem’ and ‘Freedom’, written in 2021 but first performed days after the attack on Israel. ‘Ukraine.

“Tonight was uplifting for the soul,” said board chairman Steve Clayman. “We are emerging from the pandemic stronger than we entered it. And we want to make sure that any student in Portland who wants a music education can get it, regardless of income.

Through ticket sales, donations and corporate sponsorships from Wright-Ryan Construction, Genesan/Clean-O-Rama and TRSS Wealth Management, the event raised $16,000.

Piano instructor Rachel Herzer from Freeport received the Carol Eaton Elowe Faculty Award for her dedication to her students throughout the pandemic, keeping them engaged and learning through lockdowns and remote learning.

“I thought how wonderful it was to be here tonight, to have come through the last two years and to be on the other side,” said Herzer, who received a $500 prize. . “The conservatory is so student-centred, which I appreciate. And they are so supportive of the faculty.

Logan Peters, a 16-year-old from Falmouth who has played the piano half his life, said when he started taking lessons with conservatory instructor Naydene Bowder in 2020, something clicked.

“I was able to gain a better understanding of music with a great teacher,” he said. “And I started thinking that might be something I can do for my life.”

For more information about the school and its programs, visit

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

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