Covering the Indie Music Scene in Portland

This summer two Bowdoin students are interning in Portland at nonprofits that support artists, both ones already established in their careers and also younger ones not yet graduated from high school.

Miles Brautigam ’19 is working behind the scenes at an alternative arts and music spot, helping book bands and set up art exhibitions. He is interning for Space Gallery, a contemporary visual and performing arts venue. A couple blocks away, Sam Kyzivat  ’18 is supporting musical kids who play orchestral backup to rock bands performing in Portland. He is the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra’s sole intern this summer, helping the founder/director run the unique organization.

Both students have a Delta Sigma Arts fellowship through Bowdoin. These fellowships are part of a pool of grants that allow students to pursue what would otherwise be unpaid internships at organizations of their choosing.

Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

MYRO “expands on traditional classical music education by giving orchestral students the unique opportunity to play with national touring bands,” according to Kyzivat. Founded by Kevin Oates in 2014, the Portland-based nonprofit provides young, classically trained violinists, viola players, cellists and bassists, ages 12 to 18, the chance to play live shows, broadening their repertoire from the standard classical music track.

Kyzivat calls the partnerships MYRO initiates between kids and rock bands a “win-win.” The young musicians get “to be on stage with lights and screaming fans,” he said. Meanwhile, the bands get “an orchestra backing up their live show, filling out their sound.” Since Oates founded MYRO, the youth orchestra has performed with rock, rap, folk, and pop artists.

Oates, a graduate of USM’s School of Music, has up to now done all the arranging of songs for the kids. But Kyzivat, a music major at Bowdoin who has focused on composition, has taken over some of this work, and is currently arranging music for an upcoming show with The DuPont brothers, a songwriting indie-folk-rock duo from Vermont.

Oates said having Kyzivat as an intern for Maine Youth Rock Orchestra is like having a clone of himself around. “He has taken massive initiative to not only execute his tasks of composing music for our 2017-2018 season, but has gone above and beyond what is asked at all times, generating new and exciting ideas and opportunities for our organization and students, and ways we can improve our marketing,” he said. “Basically, I need to hire Sam the second he graduates from Bowdoin.”

With MYRO taking care of the students’ part in the show, the bands are more likely to agree to play with a bunch of teenagers, said Kyzivat. Leading up to the show, the student musicians practice with a recording of the band’s songs. When the band finally shows up in town, young and professional musicians have one rehearsal together before the concert. Oates conducts the orchestra during the concert.

Kyzivat and Oates work in MYRO’s compact yet sleek headquarters, located in an office above State Theater in Portland, where all the rehearsals take place. Kyzivat also helps out at the live performances. He described a moment in late June when he was working the merchandise table at the Kingfield Pops festival, listening to MYRO headlining the festival with the Maine group The Ghost of Paul Revere. Just as the band began the lyrics, “We are the boys of Maine,” fireworks exploded above the stage.

“When the fireworks went off, I started tearing up,” Kyzivat said. While arranging music is fulfilling (Kyzivat aspires one day to score films), he said the best part of the summer is actually working with the kids. “I could tell the kids were having the time of their lives, and it made me realize that I really want to continue working for this organization in the future…all the kids headlining the show, they don’t have to be somber or straight-faced while playing their instrument. They are rock stars!”

  • MYRO musicians playing with The Ghost of Paul Revere at the Kingfield Pops, a festival in Kingfield, Maine. About 2800 people attended the concert, which was headlined by MYRO and The Ghost of Paul Revere.
  • Sam Kyzivat helped out at the merchandise table at Kingfield Pops.
  • A recording session yesterday at The Halo Studio in Windham, Maine. Several MYRO members recorded a single with Boston-based band CONTACT, which will be released next month.

SPACE Gallery

After helping to run Bowdoin’s radio station WBOR as one of its managers, Miles Brautigam was interested in seeking out a summertime opportunity in the music business. Besides playing a bit of guitar and being interested in music theory, Brautigam said he follows “music in popular culture, music news, staying on top of what records are coming out, what artists are doing cool and innovative things.”

So Bowdoin’s Associate Director of Career Planning Dighton Spooner put him in touch with Peter McLaughlin ’10, who had been WBOR’s station manager when he was a student. These days, McLaughlin is Space’s music programmer. After Brautigam secured a Delta Sigma fellowship, McLaughlin hired Brautigam as an intern this summer.

“Space is most valuable in its diversity,” Brautigam said. “It can bring in so many types of creativity into one space, musicians of all kinds, music of niche genres I wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. It’s trying to bring in different voices and visions.”

Brautigam helps McLaughlin publicize shows as well as helps set up shows in Space’s art gallery. He’s learning the ins and outs of operating a nonprofit, which he said could be useful to him one day. Though Brautigam is majoring in government and has a particular interest in political theory, he dreams of one day having his own music and arts venue.

“One of my visions is to have my own version of Space, where I could bring in artists and have it be a social and creative and active space for community engagement and for doing good in the world,” he said. He added, “I think one thing that I want to do, in my life, professionally or in some capacity, is be able to foster and curate the creativity of others and of myself.”

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