Kara DioGuardi’s first trip to Maine was a disaster. She came as a kid with her family, from Westchester, New York, and stayed in a dumpy hotel during a freakishly cold June. “Worst vacation ever,” DioGuardi remembers. “If you had told me then I would end up in Maine, I would have said you were out of your mind.”
Years later, after making her name in Los Angeles as a pop songwriter with hits for Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, and others, DioGuardi gave Maine another chance. She bought a sea captain’s house in Prospect Harbor as a summer place. Visiting with a friend in 2007, she found a new house going up next door and struck up a chat with the contractor. This summer, they celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
“There was something about him,” DioGuardi says. “I told my friend, ‘I think I’m supposed to be with that guy!’ And she was like, ‘Who? The guy from the roof? Are you insane?’”
In 2010, while she was serving her second of two seasons as a judge on American Idol, Kara DioGuardi and her husband, Mike McCuddy, took a wrong turn on a Maine visit and ended up in York.
“I was like, what is this? It didn’t look like the Maine I knew,” DioGuardi says. They bought a place two doors down from the Hartley Mason Reserve and fell in love with the seaside park’s elevated view of York Harbor Beach. “It’s this beautiful rolling green to the ocean. It’s a very reflective place, somewhere you can go to gather your feelings, be with yourself, feel centered.”
She admires the park’s beauty, but also its origin story: before his death in 1925, local merchant Hartley W. Mason donated the 4 acres as a “public pleasure ground forever.” It’s a legacy of giving back that resonates with DioGuardi, who devotes a lot of time to efforts like Inspired Nation, a nonprofit she cofounded to raise funds and awareness for (and boost the self-esteem of) youth in need.
“I think people who live in Maine, they love allowing themselves to be wherever they’re at,” she says. “That’s the way I feel when I’m at that park — I just allow myself to be wherever I am and feel whatever I feel and realize there’s more out there than whatever I’m worrying about. I try to always be grateful for what I have, because just sitting in that park, you realize you have a lot.”
York, with her husband and 6-year-old son, commuting to Boston to teach at Berklee College of Music
Grammy and Emmy nominations, 20 BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) awards, among others
New England Sings, DioGuardi’s charitable-benefit vocal competition for 12- to 21-year-old New Englanders, is on October 15 at the Ogunquit Playhouse. inspirednation.org