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Unsung Hero: Curt Sachs, in tune with his passions

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Unsung Hero: Curt Sachs, in tune with his passions

PORTLAND — Walk into One Longfellow Square on the night of a performance and you’re apt to receive a warm greeting from a kindly man with a beard, glasses and a deep devotion to this venue and its customers, employees and performers.

Spend a few minutes with Curt Sachs and you will discover he is someone who has found himself in the right place at the right time to fulfill his lifelong passions.

To begin at the beginning, one must go back to Curt’s grandfather and namesake: Curt Sachs, the German-born but American-domiciled musicologist, who wrote "The History of Musical Instruments," a comprehensive survey of musical instruments worldwide throughout history. The American Musical Instrument Society has a “Curt Sachs Award,” which it gives annually to individuals for their contributions to organology.

“Music has always been a part of my life,” Sachs said, “but I didn’t really appreciate my grandfather until he was gone.”

Along with his musical gene, Sachs possesses a love of architecture. “I liked building things to scale as a child,” he said.

Some passions, though, take time to develop. Sachs spent 10 years as a registered radiation therapist before earning a master’s degree in architecture from the University of New Mexico. He went on to pursue a successful career in architecture, first in New Mexico and later in the New York metropolitan area.

During the later stages of his career, he developed sarcoidosis, a lung disease. The condition was aggravated by exposure to asbestos.

In 2008, Sachs and his wife, Nina, decided to reinvent themselves, so they moved to Portland. Nina took a position at Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook; Sachs began teaching historic preservation, sustainable design and other courses as an adjunct professor at the University of Maine at Augusta and Southern Maine Community College.

In addition to mentoring young architecture students, Sachs enjoys putting his experience and passions to work on behalf of good causes.

In 2010, he assisted in planning and designing hospital and clinic renovations in Cap Haitien, on the north coast of Haiti. He is currently volunteering his services to assist in the restoration of the Walker Memorial Library. And, back to the beginning of this story, he started volunteering at One Longfellow Square in 2010.

In August 2011, One Longfellow Square had no concerts scheduled for eight days, so Sachs offered to spend that time assisting in the redesign of the interior. Since then he’s become ever more involved in the organization.

“Nina and I do much of the ushering,” he said. Sachs also assists in keeping track of reservations, cleaning up the venue after performances, and doing whatever else needs to be done.

When Sachs talks about One Longfellow Square, you can sense his pride in the place.

“We have 200 seats, and we’re starting to get a lot of sell-outs,” he said. “We’re getting into new areas, such as chamber music and blues, in addition to folk. One Longfellow Square is like a family to me. I’ve enjoyed bonding with the customers and the staff, especially the young people.”

As might be expected from someone who took the chance to chase his dreams, Sachs is happy to offer advice to young people.

“Follow your passion. Find something that’s important to you and volunteer to help," he said. "Take something from every job you do.”