As part of the Maine Academy of Modern Music Chords for Kids fundraising showcase on Nov. 18, dozens of local youth rock bands commanded the stage at Aura in downtown Portland.

“Some pretty big bands have played this stage, like Cheap Trick, B-52’s, Buddy Guy, Lainey Wilson, Chris Isaak, Ziggy Marley, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and in the old spot Asylum, right here on hallowed ground, Wilco, Drop Kick Murphys, Guster, Queens of the Stone Age,” said emcee Herb Ivy of 109.9 WBLM, an event sponsor. “I mean, it’s pretty cool that these kids get to play this stage. … I love the swagger, the confidence these kids get from playing in a band.”

Musicians ages 10 and up got the full rock star treatment at this family-friendly head-banging showcase.

“We match kids into bands based on their age, musical tastes and ability,” said MAMM founder and executive director Jeff Shaw. “We’re really thoughtful about that because we’re hoping they’ll form long-term friendships and challenge each other musically.”

The kids chose the music, whether it was ’70s punk, ’80s synthesizer pop, ’90s grunge or their original work. And they chose a band name, like Firefighter Biker Gang, Metal Puppies, The Skeletones, The Mad Lobsters or The Prettiest Girl in the Morgue.

“I’ve been with MAMM for six years and learned so much about music,” said Abigail Joyner, a 17-year-old drummer from Falmouth. “They’re really accommodating to what you want to play.” Her band, The Rebellion, selected “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz and “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen.


Development Director Kerstin Gilg was selling swag at the door of the seven-hour showcase.

“We try to hold showcases where our students can perform in the community at least six to eight times a year,” he said.

Chords for Kids raised $20,000 for MAMM’s scholarship and outreach programs in Portland, Bangor and Down East.

During the event, Victora Stubbs was named 2023 Maine Music Educator of the Year. Hired to teach at Portland Arts & Technology High School (PATHS) in September 2000, Stubbs built the contemporary music program and taught there for the next 22 years.

“It became this place where the kids told me what they wanted and we fed their needs,” Stubbs said. “I think that’s the key to what makes both PATHS and Maine Academy of Modern Music incredible.”

Sam Keiter, lead singer of Buttery Flaky Crust, received a Student Leadership Award. His instructor, Jimmy Dority, was named Community Rock Star.

Dority talked about how music is a “sanctuary” for him and for many of his students. “It’s easy to feel like a cog in a big machine,” he said. “But music is a place where you can say, ‘This is mine, this is me, this is my spirit, this is like nothing else and it’s vitally important to my soul.’ ”

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Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at

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