The band Mama Tried will perform at Cadenza in Freeport this weekend. Photo courtesy of Mama Tried

BRUNSWICK — For the six professionals who make up the band Mama Tried — teachers, a guidance counselor, a doctor and a school nurse — it sometimes seems like the work is never done. There are always papers to grade, patients to see and the daily grind often extends past the traditional 9-5 workday. 

But every Wednesday night, they set everything else aside and gather in Brunswick High School math teacher Clark Porter’s basement for what they call “the antidote.” 

Mama Tried, named after a 1968 Merle Haggard song (“Because some of us put our mothers through a challenging youth,” Porter said) is a band of “non-professional musicians” playing for fun, charity and occasionally beer. Their third gig at Freeport’s live performance venue Cadenza is on Saturday. The show benefits the Brunswick Area Student Aid Fund and is already sold out. 

The group has gone through several iterations, starting more than 20 years ago for a group of Lewiston High School teachers who needed a diversion on Friday afternoons. 

Now, several years later and primarily based in Brunswick, the band includes Porter, a guitar player and vocalist; Paul Barron, a BHS special education teacher and guitarist/vocalist; Bill Clarke, BHS technology teacher and bassist; Jenny Strout, BHS nurse and vocalist; Pete Hutchinson, Lewiston High School guidance counselor, drummer and vocalist; and John Parker, a doctor, keyboardist and vocalist. 

Mama Tried performs at an earlier show at Cadenza in Freeport. All the band’s proceeds have been donated to Maine charities.

While it can be hard to find an extra three hours on a school night, it has become, as Strout said, almost “non-negotiable.” 

“It’s necessary for our sanity,” Barron said. “You need a creative outlet.”

Their music choices are “varied and eclectic,” but feature a lot of Johnny Cash, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. “There’s a lot of old rock and roll” and the occasional original, Porter said, but they are certainly “more about enjoying the moment than about precision.” 

Porter has been playing music “in some form or another” for most of his life, starting with clarinet and saxophone as a child. He learned guitar in college but put it down for close to 20 years before picking it back up to play music with his coworkers. 

Barron took a more serious approach to music, playing in a wedding band in high school and then at bars around the state for years. 

Strout, though, had only ever sung in her car and in her kitchen before she had to fill in for a colleague and sing on stage at a school event two years ago. 

“She killed it,” Porter said, and he convinced her to join their Wednesday night jam sessions. “That’s when we got good,” he said.

Mama Tried performs around four or five shows per year, and each raises money for a different cause. 

Last summer, when playing for an unofficial end-of-year faculty party at Cadenza, the band helped raise funds to send the Brunswick High School Players to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

In September, they supported the Lewiston High School scholarship fund.

The show Saturday will raise money for the Brunswick Area Student Aid Fund, which awards scholarships for graduates across the region to continue their education in colleges, universities, trade schools, technical schools and junior colleges. The fund also helps students with the cost of eyeglasses, clothing, doctor and dentist visits and other challenges that may interfere with school, according to the fund website. 

The next show will benefit Maine Adaptive Skiing. 

“Each thing that they try to do is related to a charitable organization and they never take anything for themselves,” said Matt Fogg, owner of Cadenza. Plus, “they bring in a great crowd,” and each of the band’s three shows at Cadenza has sold out before opening night. 

“They love to play, they’ll just keep going,” he said, laughing. “They’re really great people, they’re a fun bunch.”

Playing for charity lightens things up a little, Porter said, and makes it so they don’t have to feel like they are charging friends to come see them. 

“With a fundraiser, we don’t have to be good,” Barron joked. “We just like playing… There’s an energy of playing in front of a live audience.” 

The band will also play its favorite gig of the year in April: Brunswick High School’s annual music and comedy revue, Brunswick City Limits. The show benefits the senior class and MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program. 

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