Hundreds of guests, families and music students gathered to celebrate Maine Academy of Modern Music’s 10th anniversary at its inaugural Chords for Kids Scholarship Gala Fundraiser at Aura, Portland’s newest music venue, on Oct. 12.

“This is our first annual gala and it only took us 10 years to get here,” said MAMM’s founder and executive director, Jeff Shaw, who attended with his wife, Aviva. “When we first started, we were very much tuition-based, and over the last four or five years, we’ve amped up our fundraising to make our programs more accessible. We now offer scholarships to over 500 students statewide.”

MAMM is well known for its diverse and incredibly cool musical opportunities for kids of all ages, including private lessons, summer band camps and large ensembles like the Mammoth Brass Band.

“There is this instant community at MAMM, and it feels even more so at our new location on Presumpscot Street,” said Chas Lester, a MAMM music instructor, leader of the Mammoth Rock Chorus and a lead singer for The Fogcutters, the gala’s headliner. “There are communal connections, and it’s really nice. It feels like home now.”

“I started at MAMM as a student,” said Xander Nelson, who is now a music instructor at MAMM, as well as a performing artist. “It’s incredible to come full circle. I owe MAMM everything, next to my parents. It got me up in front of people for the first time, and it started an addiction I can’t shake.”

Guests navigated the extensive expanse of the club, enjoying live performances from MAMM bands on the main stage, a silent auction table, a lively bar and an intimate, acoustic performance by Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard of Armies in the VIP lounge downstairs.

Cristina and Stacey Giulianti of Portland came out to support MAMM and watch their son’s band perform; Herb Ivy, better known as “The Captain” on WBLM’s morning show, chatted with Terry Davies of Old Port Advisors; Adam Ayan of Gateway Mastering was on hand, as was Jennifer Hutchins, executive director of Maine Association of Nonprofits.

MAMM board member Dana Pillsbury chatted with Nadra and Rob Edgerley of Maine Life Real Estate Co. Nikki Evans, board member of Friends of Long Creek Youth Development Center, which shares a partnership with MAMM, attended with her husband, Lester. Susan Morris and Chip Newell of NewHeight Group enjoyed the festivities, while Hannah Quimby and Kevin Thomas were also in attendance.

“Tonight’s a big deal,” said MAMM board member Jennifer Davies of Portland. “It’s our 10th-year anniversary, and we are so excited to celebrate MAMM and our award honorees.”

Indeed, one the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural “Rock Stars in Our Communities Awards,” where honorees received framed gold records presented by event emcees Cindy Williams and Lee Nelson of WCSH-6. The Community Sponsor Award was given to Maine Magazine; the Foundation Partner Award was given to the Quimby Family; the Music Community Leader Award went to Mark Curdo of WCYY; and the Maine Music Educator Award was given to Eugene Nichols, professor of music at the University of Maine at Machias.

“We are more than just a music school,” said Shaw, beaming at the overwhelming support and affection coming from the crowd. “We are helping to build solid musicians and helping kids meet their musical goals, but we are also helping to build strong kids socially and emotionally.”

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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