AUGUSTA — Children played electric guitars, keyboards, a bass guitar and drums, while their instructor crooned song lyrics of bands from the Beatles to the White Stripes.

The group of children, ages 10 to 16, are attending a weeklong rock camp hosted by the Maine Academy of Modern Music and held at University of Maine at Augusta.

The students had been playing together for only three days, but they already knew a few songs well enough to play them front-to-back without too much trouble.

“Let’s try it again a little faster. Let’s keep that energy up,” instructor Chas Lester said after the participants played a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

At times, Lester interjected instructions for his students between the lyrics.

“‘For a smile they can share the night’ — here we go,” said Lester, motioning for the musicians to be ready to start playing again. “It goes on and on and on and on.”

The two student groups will perform the songs they learned at camp on Saturday during Old Hallowell Day. They’ll march in the parade, before playing at the Kennebec Wharf at noon, Lester said.

He said each group at camp typically learns four to five songs.

Another group of five students at the camp played in the classroom next door.

John Finn was instructing the group, which was composed of three guitarists, including a vocalist, a bassist and a drummer.

Some of the musicians switched between guitar, bass and drums because everyone in the group was a guitarist, Finn said.

“One of the lessons we’re learning is the world is full of guitar players, but less drummer and bass players,” Finn said.

Besides teaching the children how to play songs, the instructors talked to the them about other important facets of being in a band.

That could include how to network and promote shows and how to wrap a microphone wire around a stand before a performance.

The drummer in Lester’s group, Sam Smith, 14, said it was the third year in a row he attended one of MAMM’s rock camps.

Smith, from Wiscasset, said he wanted to learn more about playing music and to find people to start a band.

“There aren’t many that are interested in being in a band at my school,” he said. “(Rock camp) was fun, so I kept doing it and meeting new people.”

Smith said the most difficult part of camp was playing with a group, because he has to keep the beat for all of them as drummer.

“It’s more difficult to play with other people than with headphones at my house,” he said.

William McPherson, 10, of Oakland, was the youngest person at the camp.

McPherson, one of the guitarists in Lester’s group, along with his sister, Colby, said he has been playing the instrument for almost four years.

He mostly knows songs by the Beatles, but he came to camp to learn more, McPherson said. He said he likes the songs his group chose to play.

“They’re usually really loud and fast, with lots of solos,” he said. “They usually aren’t too hard or easy. They’re just right.”

McPherson said he isn’t nervous about performing on Saturday because he has performed at concerts before.

“You only get nervous if you’re doing a solo,” he said.

He may be nervous for part of the performance; he has a guitar solo in “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Portland-based MAMM is an independent music school focused on rock and contemporary music. It hosts several rock camps during the summer and private music lessons throughout the year, and it helps bands from the academy play in gigs.

Lester said the most challenging part of preparing the groups to play a show at the end of camp is making sure the children know how to play all of the songs. Once they know the songs, they can work on becoming more fluid, Lester said.

“That’s the biggest thing, making them realize you have to practice. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. When you see a live band, it’s hours and hours of work that went into those songs,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of just making them learn that the nuts are bolts of being a musician are really learning the tunes,” Lester added. “You don’t go from zero to rocking out.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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