High school rockers typically play to audiences of washing machines, boxed holiday decorations and old furniture.

Teenage musicians are relegated to basements and garages, where they lay down rhythms, tweak chords and haggle over lyrics. Often for hours on end. Sometimes to the neighbors’ chagrin.

It’s a short-lived diversion for some kids. But for others, it’s a passion that will grow with them. And they shouldn’t have to wait until they graduate to have their talents taken seriously.

Next weekend’s MAMM Slam will showcase those musical talents. The event put on by the Maine Academy of Modern Music will bring together high school bands to battle it out on stage at Empire Dine and Dance in Portland.

“Our goal is not to leave bands in their garages and basements,” said Jeff Shaw, executive director and founder of the academy. “I think it’s important for teens to have a place to share their talents with the community.”

Bands from all over Maine will play mostly original songs (one cover is allowed) for an audience of fellow musicians, supporters and judges.

They’ll be evaluated on their 20-minute performances, marketing and songwriting, in addition to qualities like musicianship.

It’s all part of educating young musicians about what it takes to make it in the music industry, said Shaw. Competing musicians receive feedback, along with tips and tricks of the trade.

There’s also a balance between competitive spirit and camaraderie.

“It helps the kids network with each other and with local professionals,” said Shaw. “I feel it’s less of deciding the best Maine band and more of deciding the band most likely to succeed.”

The skills the young musicians will gain by participating can help them move from “high school band” to “career musicians” one day. It’s a feat that isn’t easy, but it happens.

More than a dozen bands will participate in the MAMM Slam, representing Gorham, Freeport, Telstar, Casco Bay, Scarborough, Greely and South Portland high schools, among others.

Folks who know band members can get a coupon for $2 off the admission price. Without a coupon, entry is $10 for students and $12 for adults

Proceeds from the event support Maine Academy of Modern Music programs, including 26 weeks of Rock Camp this summer, so teens can keep on rockin’.

At the end of the two-day preliminary round, five finalists will be announced, along with one MaineToday.com wild card.

Local musician Dean Ford will perform while the judges tally up the results.

The finalists will perform at the MAMM Slam finals on April 30 at Port City Music Hall.

The winning band gets the honor of being recognized as Maine’s best high school band. And the prizes are decent: $1,000 in cash and a professional services package including photography, logo design, recording studio time, radio time and a professionally written band profile.

The winners also will be invited to tour the multiple Grammy-winning Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland, and they’ll get to open for Sparks the Rescue at Port City Music Hall on the night of the finals.

While the audience at the prelims will be chock-full of band members’ moms, dads, siblings and teachers, Shaw says it’s a great opportunity for the public to pop in and see the future of Maine’s music scene.

Coffee-shop songwriters, late-night punk rockers and main-stage stars all started somewhere. There’s a good chance it was their parents’ basement.

“Kids have talent, too. This is the future of local music,” said Shaw. “And the future sounds good.”

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

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