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The Maine Academy of Modern Music

Last week I posted the "Be In Love" music video that the Maine Academy of Modern Music (MAMM) had produced for its “Playing for Change, Playing for Maine” benefit. A couple of days later I had a chance to chat about the video, and learn more about the organization, with Jeff Shaw, MAMM's founder and executive director:

LWP: Tell me about MAMM and what you guys do.

Jeff Shaw: We are 5 years old — started in the fall of 2007 — and we're a nonprofit organization and music school. Our general purpose is to spread the good word about rock 'n roll, and help create positive life experiences through music for kids and grownups of all ages and all abilities and backgrounds.

LWP: It seems as though you've got lots of established musicians involved.

Jeff: We try to bridge the gap between amateur and professional. So we have the local music community come in and talk at our camps and shows so our kids can share the same stages with bands like Rustic Overtones or Spose. It's a way for them to give back. We also have workshops to help teach about how music business works. We talk about how to write a press release, how to get reviewed, how to get your song played on the radio, how that world works. We build networks and help the music community grow.

LWP: How did you guys get the idea for the video?

Jeff: So the Playing for Change Foundation is known for their "songs around the world" videos which are in much the same format. The bass player might be in South Africa and a guitarist in Spain and a vocalist in California. We were like, "Let's put in our local musicians and feature all the great locations we have here in Portland, focusing on the town we have here and our students."

The "Playing for Change" day this year is a pretty new thing for us. Last year we did one show at the Big Easy, this year we had 10-12 shows all operating under our umbrella, and that's when we debuted the video. It all came together as a collaboration between venues and musicians.

LWP: What's the response been like?

Jeff: It's been overwhelmingly awesome. We launched on YouTube last week, now we're pushing 15,000 hits [make that 17,100 at the time of this post]. There was no ad campaign, it's all viral. It helps having so many musicians and filmmakers involved, everybody's sharing it. We also wanted to work with the local film community, behind David Meiklejohn who's the producer. It was sort of a fantasy football draft – who wants which shot? – everyone picked their own locations, from the lobster boat in the harbor to the West End during a thunderstorm. It was pretty neat to watch and it came together pretty quickly.

LWP: If a new musician moves to town, how would you recommend they get involved?

Jeff: Go out and see shows, any night of the week there's great music happening. Definitely going out and approaching musicians — folks here are eager to collaborate, I think the video shows that.

In terms of MAMM, we do private lessons, rock camps for teens and preteens during school vacations, and concert series early in the evenings at places like Empire and Big Easy and Bayside Bowl every First Friday. We also have weekend workshops and adult rock camps — that's a great way for adult musicians to network. Portland Music Foundation is also a great resource to help musicians network.

We're always looking for students and volunteers and audiences to come out and cheer on our kids [here's how you can get in touch with Jeff and MAMM if you're interested].

Photo: Joanna Quinn, drummer for The Twisted Truth, performing at the Maine Academy of Modern Music's "Playing for Change" benefit. Photo by Kevin Fahrman of Foreside Photography.

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