Portland music school to add downtown location

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PORTLAND —  The Maine Academy of Modern Music, which has grown rapidly and now serves more than 1,600 students statewide, has decided it’s time to open a second location.

The new downtown space at 45 Casco St. will provide the academy with “much-needed additional rehearsal studios and lesson rooms to meet the school’s increasing programming demands,” the nonprofit said in a press release.

Since 2015, “(We’ve) nearly tripled in size, (so) we simply need more space,” said Jeff Shaw, MAMM executive director. “The (new) space will allow us to better serve students who live on the Portland peninsula, who may have challenges commuting to our Presumpscot location. Also, the convenience of having a professional recording studio on site is really exciting and will allow MAMM to broaden our programs even further.”

Originally the music academy had hoped to move into its new space by June 1, but Shaw said the renovations won’t be completed by then. However, “the space should be ready in time for our summer camp programs,” which begin the last week of June.

He said the building the academy is moving into was originally built in 1906 to serve Portland High School’s vocational program, “so it’s nice to be able to be opening a MAMM location in a space that was originally built for kids.”

Shaw said it’s also home to The Studio Portland, a professional recording studio that’s operated there since the 1980s. “Having a (such a) studio in the suite next to ours will be convenient for everyone,” he added.

In total, the music academy will take up about 1,500 square feet or “roughly half of what was The Studio Portland’s original space,” according to Shaw. He said there are five other businesses in the building, including architect David Hembre, who owns the historic structure and is in charge of the renovations.

“He has removed a number of walls and the dropped ceiling, as well as sandblasted the interior brick walls and he has refinished the floors,” Shaw said. “The space will include four new lesson spaces that can (also) be flexed to be used as rehearsal rooms for our ensembles.”

Shaw said the music academy would be retaining its original location, at 125 Presumpscot St., but “this additional space will allow us to meet the growing demands of (our) students.” When asked what he was most looking forward to with the new space, Shaw said, “everything.”

“I started MAMM in 2007 with just a dozen or so students (and we’re) now serving over 1,600,” he said. “The community support that we have seen over the years is absolutely amazing.”

“MAMM is offering to do for garage bands what Little League did for sandlot ball. It’s structured, safe, well organized and led by local adults and educators who want to help kids build their skills and share with them the thrill of accomplishing goals as a team. It’s (also) fun and educational,” Shaw said.

“Another reason for our success is that more and more public school music programs are being cut, so families are looking elsewhere for quality music instruction. As those programs fold, the need for organizations like MAMM become more and more important to our local communities.”

And what makes the growth of the music academy all the more special, Shaw said, is that “we are a nonprofit and (the majority) of these kids are accessing our programming at a free or reduced cost.”

He said the music academy is able to accomplish this through grants, donations “and other fundraising efforts, such as our Chords For Kids Scholarship Gala.” The academy also benefits from partnerships with the Portland Public Schools, the Maine Seacoast Mission, the Preble Street Teen Center “and other organizations serving at-risk youth.”

Shaw said the academy must raise a total of $30,600 to help outfit it’s new space on Casco Street. “We’re just about a third of the way there,” he said, and any assistance in raising the remainder would be welcome.

“As chair of the coolest rock ‘n’ roll nonprofit (around), I’m so proud of this organization” Deb Ivy said in the press release. “Our new location on Casco Street will give us the opportunity to not only grow our program offerings, but also gives us a new downtown presence.”

Shaw agreed and said, “This beautiful new space will allow us to better serve our students that live on the Portland peninsula. Likewise, it will also bring us closer to a number of our partner organizations, allowing us to further deliver on our mission of making our programs accessible to all students.”

Overall, according to the music academy’s website, the organization works to provide “Maine youth with the discipline, freedom and guidance to appreciate the thrill of making contemporary music, instilling in them the power of self-expression.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The Maine Academy of Modern Music is opening a second location in Portland. The new space is in a former school building on Casco Street and should be ready by the end of June.

The goal of the Maine Academy of Modern Music is to provide students with the “thrill of making contemporary music.”

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