Right in downtown Yarmouth, the now expanded 317 Main Community Music Center is beginning a new chapter, following near-complete expansion of the almost 20-year-old musical gathering place.
The facility can be found at the intersection of rustic and modern. Tacked onto the back of the original community center building, which dates back to 1855, is a three-story modernized expansion, which includes a brand new music hall, recording studio, additional classroom spaces and more.
“All of us cried when we [first] walked into this room,” said Lisa Frates, the marketing and communications director for 317 Main, about the vibrant performance space Founders Hall. “It was honestly watching a dream come to life.”
It’ll truly come to life on March 31, when 317 Main hosts its first concert there. Guitarist Grant Gordy marks the official renaissance of Yarmouth’s community music center.
317 Main’s mission is to create and strengthen community through music. It’s been in downtown Yarmouth since 2003, where the community center provides music education, lessons, summer camps and more, for young people and adults.
The original building wasn’t enough space for the demand, Frates said. The center’s popularity has surged since then and increased its number of students by a third over the past few years. Reaching capacity with the space they had led to the 2021 launch of the “Raise the Barn” campaign to be able to offer even more and meet that increasing demand.
Paul Lewandowski of Portland architecture firm Paul Designs Project explained that the new hall was built for sustainability with cross-laminated timber (CLT), which has only been used on a handful of other architectural projects in Maine. For the rest of the community center, the goal was to keep it eclectic like the original building. Everything was done with acoustics in mind, from the ceiling to the floor, Lewandowski said.
The whole expansion itself is three levels, but it’s pushed down a story and nestled into the back of the property so it doesn’t overpower the rest of the buildings on Main Street.
Spring lessons will begin April 3, but until then, 317 Main has been giving lessons and making due with the space they have — including the use of the downstairs kitchen as a drum studio.
“That just shows you how excited people are to be here,” Frates said. “They want to take lessons in the kitchen.”
The upgrade will include a new recording studio, allowing for music students to record their own songs.
“If you take lessons here and you’re in a songwriting class, we have the ability now to help you learn how to record it! It’s an element that as a musician, usually, is reserved for musicians that are at a certain level, with money to pay for studio time — but now our students will have [direct] access,” Frates said.
The interpretation by Executive Director John Williams, is adjacent to an Irish pub feel, in the sense of walking down the street, hearing ongoing music and welcoming passers-by. When the weather permits and the courtyard is complete, it will be another step towards that vision.
Fundraising for the 317 Main expansion project is ongoing, despite the expansion being so close to completion. Inflation and the supply chain increased the overall cost from an original $4 million to an approximate $5.8 million. Staff hope that once 317 Main is operating at its new capacity, the community will continue to support the renaissance.