Skyler Cummings takes pride in showing younger girls that they, too, can rock.
Not that she’s old, but at 16, she’s already a rock band veteran. She first got the rock music bug at a Maine Academy of Modern Music summer camp while in middle school. Through MAMM, she met other like-minded girls and became part of one of MAMM’s first all-girl rock bands, Yard Sail.
She and her band will play their third Girls Rock, an annual concert designed to celebrate girls who rock, Friday at Port City Music Hall in Portland.
“I think people look at rock bands and think they’re male-based, but that’s rooted in years of oppression and sexism,” said Skyler, who plays bass and is a junior at Casco Bay High School in Portland. “It’s great to get the opportunity to change that view. We’ll be on stage and a younger girl will see us and think they can be on stage. That’s a great feeling.”
This will be the 8th Girls Rock concert, organized by MAMM and featuring some 50 MAMM students in ten different groups. The only non-student group is the headlining band, Boston-based Amy & The Engine, featuring South Portland native Amy Allen.
One of the groups playing will be MYROCK, a group of young string musicians who play cover of rock songs. MAMM founder Jeff Shaw calls MYROCK the “junior varsity” for the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, a MAMM group for teen musicians. The MYROCK features players who are a little new to their instruments, and generally between 10 and 15.
The night will be hosted by Aimsel Ponti, music writer and content producer for MaineToday.com and on-air host of “Music from 207” on Portland radio station WCLZ (98.9 FM).
MAMM is non-profit music school, based on Presumpscot Street in Portland, with a focus on rock and contemporary music. The school gives lessons, helps young musicians form ensembles and groups, stages performances, and hosts the annual rock band competition MAMM Slam.
The Girls Rock shows are a way to showcase the girls in MAMM, and get more girls involved, said Shaw. He said when MAMM started in 2007, only a few girls were involved in the school’s bands. Now MAMM has 13 or 14 youth rock bands and all but two have girls in them, said Shaw.
“It’s our goal to help (youngsters) learn to play the music they listen to, but also to help them learn about leadership and team work,” said Shaw. “Everything you can accomplish through sports you can accomplish in a band.”
Like improving a youngster’s confidence, for instance.
Haley DiMillo, 15, is vocalist and guitar player for the band Kid. She said when she first took the stage at various MAMM-sponsored shows, she was “iffy” about walking around stage, moving, and basically owning the role of lead singer. But as she and her band have played more professional-quality shows, like at Port City Music Hall, her confidence has grown.
“I feel more prepared with my songs now, more comfortable,” said Haley, a sophomore at Casco Bay High School.
Skyler, from Yard Sail, says her band has gone from covering other people’s music to writing their own songs now. Their current set list includes four or five original songs and an eclectic mix of covers. One of those covers is the Doors 1967 classic “Break on Through.”
“We’re always experimenting, always trying new things,” said Skyler.
Watch the promo video for the Girls Rock show
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $12 in advance; $15 day of the show; $20 preferred seating
The Mean Faces
Sadie Grant with guest Liam Swift