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More in Community
The (Oxford) hills are alive with the sound of music
There are many ways kids can make music: school choir, orchestra, and band being a few. But some teens love music so much they form their own bands and perform at events that aren’t school-related.
Benin Laliberte, a musically-talented teenager, is senior at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School (OHCHS). He took piano lessons starting in third or fourth grade, and gradually learned more instruments such as the cello and the bass guitar.
Laliberte is currently in a few bands such as Elysium, Fuzzy Creatures, Loose Change (when the other members aren’t at college), and “a few other nameless projects.”
Laliberte joined a band “because [he] loved playing music and being in a band seemed like a fun thing to do."
"I couldn't get enough of them so I joined a few more," he said.
Most of the bands he is involved in do covers, but Loose Change and Elysium are currently working on a few originals. Laliberte has performed quite a bit with his bands and recently played at Crazy Eights – a bar in South Paris – on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Early on I played at a lot of Open Mic [Night], Loose Change won Oxford Hills Got Talent my sophomore year. More recently I've been playing at local bars more with Elysium,” said Liberte. He also won this year’s Oxford Hills Got Talent with Fuzzy Creatures.
He also says that school music programs have helped him become a better musician and give him an understanding of “the actual theory behind music."
After graduating, he plans on taking a year off before going to school for music.
Jacob Newcomb is another student at OHCHS who is also a musician.
“The first instrument I truly picked up was in fourth grade and it was the viola," says Newcomb. "After that it was sort of finding new ones and playing. The bass guitar, then the drums, then a six-string and then most recently, my freshman year, playing stand up for orchestra."
Newcomb has been in a school orchestra ever since the fourth grade and has played drums and bass for two years in the middle school and high school Jazz bands. He said he also had a “pretty good stint playing at parties with [his] brother Jesse and friend Benin Laliberte.”
He plays with his twin Jesse frequently, attends Open Mic Night, and plays at weddings and theatre competitions.
But performing isn’t the most important thing to Newcomb.
“I enjoy it, for sure, but much prefer to play to myself," he says. "I can be a little more creative, even to the point where my skill level doesn't match what I am attempting to play. I can also fool around and make mistakes. It's pressure-less, easy and soothing. It's my alone time.
"[Music] appeals to me as an emotive, expressive human being and helps me divine what it is I want to do with myself and values I want to hold. It also appeals to me at face value, at the very basic level of what sounds do I like, what words flow well and what instruments are used creatively and pleasingly.
"My family is very musical and I have been raised listening, playing and appreciating music. This is very much because of my father. It is my number one hobby and the form of art I most readily appreciate.
Isaac Grover, a sophomore at OHCHS, sings.
“I’m inspired by everyday life. Whatever sucks or affects me the most I write a song about,” Grover says.
But Grover says that doesn’t want to get famous through his music.
“I don’t want that weight on my back of having fame. I just want have fun,” he says. “I never want to be famous and fall into the hype. It just isn't cracked up to what it’s supposed to be, so why bother and go through the trouble if it’s all fake? That’s my point of view. I chose music because it was an influence through my childhood. Why have a life without music?”
Lindsey Redgate, another senior at OHCHS, has a similar story. She has been singing and playing guitar for six years. She writes her own songs, does covers, and performs at, and organizes Open Mic Night at Café Nomad.
When Redgate first started guitar, she wasn’t very good and did it in phases. But then in eighth grade she discovered that she really had a passion for it. Her father is the one that really got her started in it.
Is she afraid of performing in front of a crowd?
“At first I was absolutely afraid of going up,” Redgate says.
She’s relaxed now, she says, but doesn’t like to look into people's eyes while on stage.
Redgate thought about becoming a famous musician, but doesn’t want to put all her “cards into the famous basket.”
“Music will always be there for me,” she says, “and I’ll let it take me where it takes me.”
What is Open Mic Night exactly?
Scott Berk is the owner of Café Nomad. He started Open Mic Night in the winter of 2008-2009 with Ruby DayBranch, a graduate of OHCHS in 2011.
“[Ruby] came to me with the idea, and I thought it was a good one,” Berk says. “There are a couple open mic nights in Norway, but they generally cater to adults and I thought it was a good idea to have one for teens. It seemed it would be a little less intimidating for the performers, and it would be a fun thing for people to do on a Friday night.”
Berk says the number of people who attend vary.
“I have had as many as 100 and as few as 30. Probably averages around 40 to 50!” he says.
There have been bands, solo acts, harmony, A Capella, poetry, stand up comedians, and many other types of performances. Berk loves Open Mic Night and thinks that the kids that come like it too. He says that they are very supportive of the performers, even when said performers aren’t very good.
Berk says that the goal of Open Mic Night is “to give kids a chance to play and listen to music amongst themselves and to give them a cool place to perform in. I also make them charge a $3 cover which has gone to buy some PA equipment and will eventually help to fund a scholarship idea I have," he says.
“I am blown away by the talent in every performance,” he says. “Who knew?”
Open Mic Night is the first Friday of every month. It is held in Café Nomad during the school year and outside in the town square in June, July, August, and September.
“I see [the students] grow an unbelievable amount,” Berk says. “They start off as eight graders or freshmen, very hesitant and shy. They forget lyrics and chords. By the time they graduate, they are impressive performers. It is a very cool thing to see.”