September 19, 2013

Making Noise: Portland's Playing for Change lineup expands to five shows

By Aimsel Ponti
News Assistant

Happy autumn (more or less), music fans. Let's celebrate! Here's one really good way to do just that.

click image to enlarge

Beware of Pedestrians, last year’s MAMM Slam winning band, will perform at Asylum on Playing for Change Day, which is Saturday.

Photo by Kevin Fahrman/Foreside Photography


WHEN: Saturday

WHERE: Various Portland venues



Beware of Pedestrians and MAMM student bands; winner of the Playing for Change songwriting contest will be announced. Noon. Asylum, 121 Center St. $10; all ages

The Kenya Hall Band, Kristina Kentigian and Lady Essence. 9 p.m. The Big Easy, 55 Market St. $7; 21-plus

Cam Groves, Trails and Shane Reis. 9 p.m. Empire, 575 Congress St. $7; 21-plus

Kurt Baker presents The Gamma Goochies, Euphemia and Kid Sentiment. 9 p.m. Geno's Rock Club, 626 Congress St. $7; 21-plus

Anna Lombard, Peter Miller and Gunther Brown. 8 p.m. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St. $12; all ages

TURN YOUR RADIO DIAL to 102.9 WBLM every Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear Aimsel Ponti wax poetic about her top live music picks for the week with the Captain and Celeste.

The Maine Academy of Modern Music is set to participate in the annual international event Playing for Change Day with shows all over the city on Saturday and the announcement of this year's winning song.

First, a bit of history about MAMM. It was founded by executive director Jeff Shaw in fall 2007, and has a practice space in Portland's Woodfords Corner neighborhood.

MAMM operates and supports an independent music school focused on rock and contemporary music, and is dedicated to creating positive life experiences for Maine students of all ages and abilities. It does this through programs that promote resiliency, self-expression, creativity and determination.

In other words, MMAM is completely awesome.

Shaw said the campus is really the entire state of Maine, and classes are held all over the state. One of its biggest events is the annual MAMM Slam, which pits high school bands against each other, and is an educational and certainly fun experience for all involved. Student musicians learn about performance, business, career networking and so much more.

Last year's MAMM Slam winners, Beware of Pedestrians, will be celebrating the release of its "English Breakfast" CD with a performance at Asylum as part of Playing for Change Day.

This brings us to the Playing for Change Foundation, a global initiative dedicated to connecting people through music by providing resources to musicians and their communities around the world.

MAMM board member Tom Kasprzak explained how the relationship was forged: "I had become aware of Playing for Change Day. I'm a big fan of Portland music and I knew that Portland had to have an event to be part of that global event."

He also said he knew the talent was here and that the community, especially the music community, would support being involved with Playing for Change.

"The reason I called MAMM is I knew in principle when starting this that there had to be a local connection to it, and I went looking for the Maine Academy of Modern Music without even knowing it existed yet and literally found them, did a little homework, and picked up the phone and called Jeff."

That was two years ago. The first Playing for Change event in Maine was a single show at The Big Easy in Portland. Last year, efforts were ramped up significantly with more shows and the release of the "Be in Love" video -- which, as of this writing, is closing in on 250,000 views.

Shaw credits WCYY's Mark Curdo for bringing the Dominic & The Lucid song to his attention. "When we heard the song, we said, 'We have to do this,' and we approached Dominic Lavoie, and he was open to the idea," he said.

The "Be in Love" video includes a huge cast of local acts, and the song's optimism fits in perfectly with the message of Playing for Change.

This year, MAMM opted to hold a contest to choose the Playing for Change song, and during July and August, received 80 submissions from Maine musicians.

The 80 submissions were whittled down to five, and Shaw said that in conjunction with the Maine Center for Creativity, an anonymous panel of judges will select the winner. The five songs in the running are "Ain't That Beautiful" by Daniel Snyder, "For Time" by Seth Wegner, "Home" by Mike O'Hehir, "House of Hope" by Sorcha Cribben-Merrill and "Understand" by Frank Hopkins.

"The winning song will be based on what we think would make the best video and what's the most conducive to having multiple musicians and singers and also what song lends itself best to the mission message," said Shaw.

The "Be in Love" video featured several locales in Portland, so this time around, they're hoping to showcase all of Maine. The video will be unveiled on Playing for Change Day 2014 to allow for filming throughout the four seasons.

As for the five shows happening on Saturday, Shaw said they'll be showing some of the Playing for Change videos including "Be in Love," and will be talking at different points without interrupting the flow of the music.

"We don't want to be preachy," he said. "It's more about celebrating local music and Portland music venues."

Half of the money that is donated will stay here locally with MAMM; the other half will go to the Playing for Change Foundation. This year, MAMM decided to adopt one of the schools that Playing for Change sponsors in Nepal: the Tintale Village Mothers Society.

Kasprzak explained that the school educates children about the risks of human trafficking through performance art and musical presentations put on for villagers.

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

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